How healthcare spaces impact vital professional services

30th January 2019

By Tony Smith, Construction Director

For the vast majority of us, the very first space we encounter in our lives is in a healthcare environment. Public and private healthcare spaces can punctuate our existence at key moments in our lives where professionals carry out life-defining work. From routine check-ups to physical, mental and emotional care, these are settings of great importance to us for the service they provide.

As in each sector, spaces are designed to perform different functions, but with healthcare, dilapidated or outdated facilities have a knock-on effect, and limiting performance isn’t just inconvenient, it has the potential to impede life-saving operations. From the office teams that arrange logistics, to the driven medical students, lab technicians and the practising professionals – disruption to their works must be minimal when facilities are under construction!

When it comes to working in the healthcare sector, how modernisations are introduced and delivered is of equal important to the upgrades themselves, especially when working in a ward or clinical setting; disrupting or restricting access in any way simply isn’t an option. It’s also crucial to apply the strictest controls for health and safety and hygiene, so patients and practising medical professionals won’t be adversely affected.

Consideration was at the forefront of ITC’s £1.2m extension and refurbishment of the Children’s Ward at NHS Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. The project was extensive, involving a full strip-out of fixtures and fittings and the existing M&E Services. This allowed ITC to install new equipment, piped supply systems and drainage modification, as well as extending the first floor above the high dependency unit. The refurbishment of parts of the paediatric and teenage unit saw ITC also install new partitions, suspended ceilings, doors and windows and renew floor and wall coverings, in addition to completing fire protection works! All this work had to be carried out in a tight time-frame and in, an extremely efficient clinical setting, which didn’t allow any margin for error.

The highly sensitive nature of construction in healthcare means that it’s crucial to form a good relationship based on open communication through collaborative working, to deliver a project which is hassle-free for the client, yet meets and exceeds their needs and expectations. Once a good working relationship is formed, it’s natural for clients to return again and again to the contractors they trust. In 2018 we completed a £1.5 million refurbishment for University College of London Hospitals (UCLH) after previously working with this prestigious client on their Queens Square Wards Redevelopment. This refurbishment involved turning an existing ward into a new Medical Intensive Therapy Unit (MITU) – the only dedicated unit in the UK treating neuromedical disorders. The hospital lobby area remained live throughout the project; alternative site access arrangements had to be made, dust controls had to be incredibly strict, and it was necessary to adapt the project schedule so that noisy works took place outside the hospital’s busiest periods. MITU now houses a multidisciplinary team of neurologists, anaesthetists, nursing staff and therapists.

Jenner Wing St George's

Healthcare spaces aren’t just about wards or clinical environments, teaching spaces require just the same level of quality to provide first-class facilities for training medical professionals. Another stand-out healthcare project for ITC has been our refurbishment and fit-out of the Jenner Wing at St George’s University Hospital. Working on its ground and lower ground floors, we created new teaching areas and student space, including a new reception area, consultation rooms, teaching rooms, learning resource area, study rooms, administration offices, conference areas and new toilet facilities. As another live working environment for us, we adopted a strict regime to cover the safe access and exit of labour, materials, equipment and rubbish, keeping disruption to an absolute minimum. There were unexpected challenges to navigate together too – such as the discovery of asbestos on both floors of the work. However, every obstacle, anticipated or surprise, was expertly handled by our skilled, specialist team, with their decades of experience and collaborative approach showing itself in the exemplary final result.

When working with healthcare spaces, it’s vital that you have an experienced team behind you who aren’t phased by complex phases or get stage-fright with busy live sites. You need a specialist contractor who can help you assist people at all stages of the works.