Working at Coventry Hospital

Coventry Hospital Project has seen significant improvements since General Manager Jim Valentine and his team took over in late 2017.

Jim attributes this to great team and client communications:

“I am lucky to have a brilliant team with the knowledge and skills to make a difference and have to give them the deserved recognition. Claire Farthing, Kelly Fallon, Scott Humphrey and Steve Haley. We also have the capable hands of Robert Lake, Hannah Savage, Nigel Dale and Chris Spencer who are responsible for Commercial, Finance and Project Management. My responsibility as GM is to try to take the stress off them and allow them to do their jobs.”

This confidence in his internal team to work autonomously is enhanced by excellent client communication. Between them they have a daily team meeting where Jim keeps them informed of any updates. This has created an environment of trust and turned around the previous obstacles of hospital improvements.

Although the contract still has some daily difficulties, it has come a long way and that’s primarily down to the teamwork. “I like to think we provide an independent view from a different perspective to the Trust or Service Providers.”

The project was chosen for a communications feature through successful partnership working which has transformed the reputation from an example of ‘everything that is wrong with PFI’ to an exemplar project.

For further insight into the day to day workings at Coventry, read on for Chris Spencer’s Fire Stopping case study.

Project Management Case Study

Overview of project

Since April 2017 I’ve been at Coventry Hospital. Back in 2015 construction issues were identified in relation to the fire compartmentalisation of all buildings on site. At first the scale wasn’t known. There were preemptive inspections and surveys that found some fire stopping had not been done correctly, dampers unsupported or out of line with the wall and some walls had not been built up to the floor slab above.

It was identified that it was a serious issue across the whole estate – the main acute building and other ancillary buildings. Eventually, via a Settlement Agreement between the stakeholders, it was agreed that Skanska would come back and resolve the issues.

I manage the responsibilities of Project Co. as per the Settlement Agreement, progress reporting to the Project Co. board and the relationships with the trust, the various consultants and the main contractor. Surveying and remediation works are required to all rooms including areas such as Pathology, Theatres and highly sterile lab areas. These are areas which are difficult to allow building or construction to go ahead in, we’ve had to come up with various solutions to enable us to work in bedded areas and patient areas.

We work with the trust’s infection control to ensure that contractor practices are acceptable and minimise health and infection risk. With our consultant we must ensure that the work is compliant to current standards. There are some things which may be particularly unusual or challenging to fix so it’s getting consensus from; the consultant that works for the project company, the consultant working for the contractor and the trust to say what can we do. We may not be able to do it 100% by the book but using documented engineering judgements we agree on what we can do to achieve what is required whilst in a working hospital.

Obstacles along the way

It became apparent that there were other issues that hadn’t been entertained at first. The floor slab doesn’t go all the way to the external facade; there are gaps so fire can travel vertically between floors. The floor fire rating should be 90 minutes, meaning it should be able to withstand a 90-minute fire. We ensure that we close any gaps around penetrations of the floor slabs.

The contractor is now putting in fire stopping material. We’ve got some issues where some areas are so congested that it’s difficult if not impossible to get to some of the locations. The ducts, pipes and cabling can’t be fixed in a standard approach so we’re looking at other alternatives, such as putting in fire rated ceilings. Different stakeholders have their own vested priorities; the trust want to minimise disruption, the contractor may want to do things as quickly as possible and reduce costs, and from a Project Co perspective we want to make sure it’s done as near as it can be to ensure statutory compliance.

There’s a lot of relationships to manage and it’s important that we work together. It’s a safety issue affecting hospital staff and patients. We’ve got to get it done to the programme agreed.

Now and the future

We’ve got a programme until October 2019 for agreed access for all bedded areas. There will be areas within the hospital not complete by then, I have to communicate that clearly and manage expectations. The next step will be agreeing access and closing out all remaining rooms and technical solutions.

Recently the contractor broke a water pipe which meant that water to two of the wards was interrupted. In this case I had to manage the interface and relationships- no one means to break a pipe, but it happened. I clearly communicated with the trust on when it would be fixed and advised them when resulting water damage would be resolved as well.

Day to day it’s challenging but as you walk through the project you see areas being ticked off and completed. By the time all the work is finished it will be fire safety compliant, whether it be 30, 60- or 90-minute lines.

Lessons Learned

Coventry was completed in 2005 and ten years later this was an issue found across the whole site. Projects need to know if their fire compartmentalisation is correct, as per the drawings they’ve got and compliant as it’s a statutory requirement that it is audited to make sure its correct and intact.

Coventry is going on as a concession until 2042, from now until then there will be more work done through small works or variations, this means more cabling, more pipes and ductwork.

I’m working with the hard FM provider to ensure they put effective control measures in place, such as a licensing system. Various stakeholders would have to inform them in advance, detailing where they would be working, what fire barrier they would be going through and when they would be re-mediating to make sure that its left as good as it was before they arrived. This will ensure that the Project maintains the continuity and effectiveness of the fire compartmentalisation which is obviously very important.

Chris Spencer

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