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Healthcare Fit-out: Supporting Critical Systems is the Priority

Earlier this year, Wates Smartspace completed a fit-out project at Winchester’s Royal Hampshire County Hospital, an upgrade programme that became the second fit-out delivered by the team on behalf of Hampshire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust. Scott Camp, Managing Director of Wates Smartspace, shares his insight on the challenges and considerations when delivering fit-out works in healthcare environments.

Wates Smartspace

Upgrading services in healthcare environments is a privilege and one we never take for granted. Healthcare customers ultimately need trust and assurance that we are a safe and capable pair of hands; they have critical systems that must be managed with care. It is not enough to simply say disruption will be kept to a minimum. Disruption must be completely mitigated.

Earlier this year, we completed a fit-out project at Royal Hampshire County Hospital, providing substantial refurbishments to the pathology department. We upgraded the mechanical and electrical services across two floors and extended the office area, all of which has enabled the implementation of new specialised equipment serving the hospital’s blood sciences departments.

This became our second project at Royal Hampshire County Hospital following our fit-out of the Burrell Wing Pharmacy in 2021. This saw the Wates Smartspace team create a new robotic pharmacy, including administration office space, meeting rooms, an automated dispensing system and a shell for a future hospital radio station.

A robust health and safety strategy

No matter the fit-out project, obviously health and safety is our number one priority – particularly when it comes to working in live environments. Much of our work is done while keeping our customers operational, whether they need to maintain building access, have back-up power supplies or even just to keep noise levels down. It’s our job to undertake our work while accommodating those needs, but for healthcare estates this is much more critical.

For the fit-out of the robotic pharmacy at the Burrell Wing, we were working in close proximity to the audiology department, so we needed to work within noise and logistical restrictions to allow vital surgeries to be carried out without disturbance. The only way we could overcome this challenge while keeping the project on track was to meticulously plan the phases of our work; we had to prevent any slips in the programme and ensure precision at all times, a challenge that we also enforced on our supply chain partners. We worked collaboratively with key stakeholders to overcome issues and develop positive relationships by having a continuous presence on site to review the project’s progress. This enabled us to undertake our work while keeping the hospital’s critical systems operational.

Understanding customer needs

As with any customer relationship, developing a mutual understanding is the most effective way of running a successful project. If you understand each other’s drivers, challenges and aspirations, then you can very quickly get on the same page with how a project should be delivered. This is one of the greatest successes of our work for Hampshire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust. Having worked with the trust twice, we understand their vision and their challenges. Having this insight means we can become part of the solution, which is the biggest benefit we can bring to all customers but particularly those in the public sector.

Efficient procurement is of great value

As is the case with all public sector investment, budgets are tight and every penny spent must show value for money. Here, it would be tempting to consider the costs of design, materials and labour, all of which are important but they are only a proportion of the project where cost efficiency can be created.

Wates Smartspace was appointed to Hampshire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust’s two recent fit-out projects through the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Construction and Associated Services Agreement, which is designed for the use of all public sector bodies to commission the construction and maintenance of schools, hospitals, universities, prisons, housing and offices. Framework procurement is, of course, not new, but when used for the procurement of healthcare upgrades, it can significantly reduce the cost and time of procurement. This means that essential projects can be fast-tracked and budgets can stretch further.

A humbling experience

It is important in our line of work that we care about our customers’ needs; our job is to create and enhance the space in which they carry out their work. If we didn’t open our minds to what our customers need then we would run the risk of delivering projects that weren’t fit for purpose. By paying close attention to what our customers need, we approach projects in complete alignment to their objectives. This creates a great deal of mutual respect.

When working in healthcare, particularly over the course of the past two years, this side of our work has been truly humbling. We are very proud to have been able to work so closely with a sector that is tirelessly dedicated to helping people when they are most in need. Through our work in healthcare, we see first-hand the skill, expertise, attentiveness and care that goes into our health service. For fit-out contractors, it is our duty to provide the healthcare sector with a service that befits their unwavering commitment to doing good.

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