COVID-19 has had a wide-ranging and completely unprecedented impact on everyone, but none more so than the NHS.
There is no doubt that the NHS is firmly on the frontline of tackling the coronavirus pandemic, but behind the scenes there has been a huge force of various departments, businesses and organisations assisting with the NHS’s ongoing efforts. The way everyone has stepped up to support our health service – from the general public’s overwhelming support and compliance with the lockdown, to hotels giving over their rooms for keyworkers and businesses providing staff with vehicles – has been incredible and genuinely humbling.
I am currently seconded three days a week into the role of Acting Associate Director of Estates (Development) for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, and I am very proud to be able to play the smallest part behind the scenes in the monumental effort the NHS is continuing day in, day out to go above and beyond for us in this challenging time.
I have worked for and with the NHS for around twenty years but started this particular role in October 2019 to assist with running the estates teams and the delivery of its capital programme of works. This also necessitates dealing with various internal and external stakeholders including PFI partners on the main campus site and encompasses financial reporting and forecasting as well as procedure review responsibilities.
The delivery of critical schemes for the Trust must continue to be delivered, and has seen huge challenges in the light of COVID-19, including ensuring that sites are safely run while complying with social distancing measures, as well as having enhanced considerations for the prevention of infection and infection control just to name a few. There have also been a number of day-to-day issues in ensuring that key contractors and the supply chain are able to attend sites where needed and obtaining the materials required to deliver the works while many businesses are either closed or running at reduced capacity under the UK’s lockdown measures.
In Manchester, we have of course seen one of the largest NHS Nightingale field hospital open in the Manchester Conference Centre after an incredible two-week effort to provide the regional health system with up to 1,000 additional bed spaces. As well as ongoing critical works, some schemes have also been repurposed mid-delivery to provide extra capacity for the Trust in some of its nine hospitals across its four campuses – with a view to these schemes being reverted back to intended use in the future.
There was a Trust-wide review of non-critical service areas and what could be used and / or converted to additional treatment space if needed. In some instances, this also necessitated the moving of services to provide space with the most appropriate adjacencies for equipment and access to other facilities and departments. As well as this, we were also involved in quick turnaround feasibilities looking at bed numbers that could be made available and the options to deliver them should the need arise depending on how patient numbers develop.
The delivery of projects in the healthcare sector always comes with unique challenges and the requirement for an added level of consideration throughout all stages from planning to handover, but I have found every minute of my twenty or so years of working for and with the NHS rewarding – on both a professional and personal level. Seeing the real difference that these projects make to the staff, patients and visitors makes it more than worthwhile.
A huge new hospital in Manchester city centre is ready to take its first patients - and all this took just two weeks