Nov 19, 2017 Last Updated 2:18 PM, Nov 16, 2017

Novus Property Solutions explores the complexities of hospital refurbishments

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Few environments present as many challenges when undertaking refurbishments as hospitals. But hospitals, like all public buildings, require upgrades on a regular basis to ensure they remain safe, functional and visually pleasing, while also adapting to meet the changing needs of patients and staff.

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Novus Property Solutions has completed a number of private and NHS hospital refurbishments in recent years and understands that communication is key to the smooth running of such projects.

More often than not, hospital upgrades need to be carried out while the healthcare facility in question remains in use, which makes the management absolutely vital. To avoid unnecessary disturbance and cost, both hospitals and maintenance firms must take responsibility for understanding the most effective approaches to this complex challenge and balancing the needs of the hospital and its staff with the demands of the project.

The extensive refurbishment project which Novus carried out at the fertility unit within the busy Birmingham Women’s Hospital is a prime example of the importance of communication to the success of such projects.

The hospital has been providing care to couples and individuals experiencing fertility problems for over 30 years and it was essential that the service continued to function as normal throughout the project.

At the very outset, the hospital explained the exact expectations of the project and what it hoped would be achieved as a result. The Novus team worked with hospital staff on these aims and suggested some alternative routes to achieving key outcomes with the least disruption possible to staff, patients and visitors. Once the programme of work was put together, there were then regular meetings and the programme was continually revised due to the constant changes in the live hospital environment.

This information gathering stage is key to any hospital project, and the approach to communications with management and key staff members sets the tone for the project and informs the creation of an appropriate programme of work. However, it is vital that any programme of work remains flexible, with wriggle room built-in to accommodate the outcomes of further project meetings.

The project took place over a four-week period and involved the full refurbishment of 14 rooms and the relocation and expansion of the unit’s main reception area. Novus installed new air conditioning units, a suspended ceiling and new lighting, as well as general electric and data cabling, creating new wall partitioning and laying flooring, before redecorating and completing the project with soft furniture.

The new waiting area in reception, which was a key part of the project, now provides a quiet place in which patients can sit comfortably and wait during what can be an incredibly difficult and emotional time.

There was no pause in the fertility unit’s activity during any period of the works, and ultimately, if Novus had failed to plan properly for every potential outcome, the risk was a denial of essential treatment to the people who needed it.

Effective planning and continuous project meetings ensured that there was never any need for members of the Novus team to come into contact or liaise with the general public either during the project. Works were scheduled for the least busy times of day as far as possible, and whenever work was being carried out, the public were informed in advance.

The fertility unit at the hospital benefits from having two separate entrances, and the work was carefully coordinated to ensure that hospital patients and visitors were able to access the unit without encountering any dust, noise or disturbance.

Another way in which hospital refurbishments can be managed effectively without the need to close off entire areas for a prolonged period is to adopt a rolling programme of works. In such cases, the team would agree to work on just one ward within a unit at a time, leaving the remaining wards live whenever work was being carried out.

One such project involved the creation of a new in-patient acute frailty unit as part of Novus’ ongoing contract with Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which was carried out while the unit remained in use and open to patients. The complex live ward refurbishment took five months to complete and was carried out over six distinct phases to minimise disruption to patients and staff alike.

The centre includes mock stairs and a home-from-home living area and kitchen, allowing staff to assess each patient’s independence prior to returning home. As well as installing the various assessment facilities, including the kitchen, Novus also reconfigured the layout of each side room, reducing the number of beds to four from six and installing en-suite bathrooms. The new layout provides more space around each unit for additional equipment such as hoists, as well as enabling patients to move around more easily.

Novus has worked closely with Aintree University Hospital, which is one of the largest single site NHS Trusts in the country, covering 44 acres with 70 separate buildings to maintain. The team have worked on numerous planned works in that time including a live refurbishment of the ophthalmology department over four phases.

While working on another hospital project, Novus worked on a bi-weekly basis to give hospital staff sufficient breaks from the unavoidable disruption to their daily tasks.

By taking a painstaking approach to planning and by making clear communication the absolute top priority, hospitals and their maintenance firms can mitigate many of the problems that absorb time and value out of a refurbishment project.

Even in the most sensitive of medical environments, it is possible to deliver outstanding building and decoration works without jeopardising the vital services provided by UK hospitals.

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