When the UK was being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the NHS faced unprecedented challenges to meet the demands of patients so the Government took the decision to create a number of field hospitals in various locations around the country to act as surge centres – just in case.
As a trusted P22 Framework partner, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust contacted BAM to ask us to help deliver the Nightingale Hospital for the Yorkshire region.
A team of specialists including the client, consultants and supply chain partners was quickly assembled and the decision was made to use the Harrogate Convention Centre (HCC). On 27 March, the team attended a briefing with the British Army and the NHS and immediately began undertaking a feasibility study and detailed site survey.
The whole team worked seamlessly and efficiently for a common cause and completed engineering design, construction and validation and commissioning works on specialist hospital systems works for all eight halls including 490 high dependency bed-heads.
Because of the frantic nature of the project and the reasons we were undertaking such a task; we found it quite easy to acquire the interest and the resources to make the delivery of the project a success. The camaraderie which was established throughout the entire team was something most of us have never experienced in our careers before. Everybody involved wanted to help and everybody involved risked their own health and wellbeing in order to do so. Everyone said it was emotional to be part of, to know you were asked to help out to provide a facility which may save somebody else’s life in a venue which 3 weeks before was just an empty hall waiting for the next exhibition to come along!
Because there was such a demand on obtaining oxygen and medical gas, the Government took control of the companies who supplied it so we did not know for the first few days how many tanks we could have. Until the tank quantities were known, we could not prepare the miles and miles of pipework required to feed the bedheads, a crucial part of the build process.
The team worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for an intense four-week period to meet the necessary deadlines. Impressively, the new facility was constructed in less than three weeks.
The project was incredibly challenging, not only because of the associated urgency, but also due to the constraints of the building being adapted. While the original NHS Nightingale Hospital London, was adapted from the ExCel London building, a modern, purpose-built event venue with one major open hall, Harrogate is a more inaccessible venue more than 30 years old, with eight separate halls – a ‘Yorkshire’ challenge, matched by the content and character of those involved.
When Captain Tom officially opened the hospital via video link the team were rightly proud of their achievement – which just goes to show that anything is possible with the right people and a desire to be successful.