Delivering an emergency project at the Royal London Hospital during COVID-19

Delivering an emergency project at the Royal London Hospital during COVID-19
Home Insights Delivering an emergency project at the Royal London Hospital during COVID-19

National MEP* Director Rob Clifford shares his experience delivering an emergency project at the Royal London Hospital during COVID-19

Since the end of March, I have been responsible for leading the Wates Group in delivering an emergency special project at the Royal London Hospital.

Our work has seen us fit out two floors of ICU bed stations spread over six wards within three wings, to provide essential extra capacity for the hospital to save lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are on course to complete this challenging project next week, marking the culmination of five unforgettable weeks which have seen hard work and collaboration on an astonishing scale.

Building a core team of experts

St Barts NHS Trust approached us to work on this project based on our industry reputation and our integrated business, comprising both leading construction and mechancial and electrical (M&E) experts. A collective determination and can-do attitude saw us appointed to work closely with representatives from the Trust to deliver this critical project.

Once we understood the scope of work, we immediately set about identifying the right supply chain to support us. We focused on partners with the right skills, capability and capacity but, most importantly, those with the culture and values needed to appreciate the urgency and importance of the task at hand.

Effective partnership

Our timescale – of only six weeks – was extremely challenging, and we’ve been asked how we have manged to work so quickly. I think the key has been effective partnership and a fundamental shift from the usual communications hierarchy.

Instead of having a top-down approach to communications, we have a core team of experts and decision makers who meet at 8am and 7pm each day to ensure actions are agreed and implemented as quickly as possible. This circular structure also extends to design decisions, with key team members meeting every five hours, day and night (sometimes at 2am!) to ensure each and every element is delivered as quickly as possible. This structure has allowed us to optimise speed and efficiency to meet our ambitious deadline.

Our response to COVID-19

Extraordinary times have meant extraordinary measures, but everyone on site has been incredibly focused and committed to achieving our common purpose.

Of course, working amidst the current Covid-19 restrictions has been difficult at times, but with everybody taking individual care and responsibility on site for ensuring that guidelines were followed, we have been able to overcome this.

My experiences on this job will absolutely have a lasting impact on my usual working methods when we return back to some kind of normality post pandemic. Being more agile and open to trying new techniques and working practices has made a significant contribution towards the final result at Royal London Hospital. When we hand over the new unit to the Trust next week, it will be with a huge sense of pride and achievement for what can be accomplished when you come together as a team.”

*mechanical, electrical and plumbing