When it comes to settings that are considered ‘live’ such as in healthcare, being at the heart of the process can only aid in a smooth operation. These complex projects often require a different approach to management, which is where seconding roles can be beneficial for both the client and consultant. Josh Sandbach, project manager at Pick Everard discusses the benefits of this approach having delivered major works for the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) through a full-time secondment.

Allowing the project manager to be fully embedded in the organisation means they are more available to jump in at short notice, have a greater awareness of the project by being able to communicate directly with the client and key stakeholders, can share expert knowledge to drive the project forward and allow for access to further input from colleagues on the secondee’s side.

Pick Everard recently successfully completed work on the £15m relocation of the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre (EMCHC) from Glenfield Hospital to its new city centre home at Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI).

The relocation was carried out across three phases of construction – a new-build extension to the Kensington Building being the largest, followed by a new cardiac ward on the first floor of the existing Kensington Building and finally, installation of the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), brand-new to the fifth floor.

Due to the complexities of working on a live acute hospital site and the number of stakeholders that require regular engagement, the decision was made to fully second the project management.

Josh explained: “With the existing Kensington Building being at the centre of the new heart facility, it was necessary to relocate the services previously housed here while work was carried out. To achieve this, we worked to refurbish two existing clinical areas on the LRI estate to re-house the maternity department and the gynaecology assessment and outpatients’ services.”

Seconding Josh meant he was available consistently throughout the project to provide on-site project management, contract administration and procurement advice. Initially, the secondment was for delivering the refurbishment and then for the EMCHC relocation, with the role becoming full-time after an initial three-month period.

He said: “Working closely with all the stakeholders also ensured a smoother project in terms of handling any issues that came up and it has also helped to develop my knowledge and understanding of clinical needs while undertaking design and construction works – especially in light of COVID-19.”

Working around patients

The main consideration of the secondment was working around a construction site that also needed to care for patients. Detailed planning was crucial due to the profound consequences that could arise.

During the creation of the PICU on the fifth floor, due to its location directly above the delivery suite, Josh also had to arrange access to replace and renew drainage connections. As well as the obvious technicalities around this work, the team also had to work around the nature of women going into labour, which is always unpredictable on when and how quickly things will progress. However, through close work with the matron, Josh and the team were able to agree a programme of works with minimal disruption.

A new air handling unit (AHU) and chiller was also craned in onto the roof of the Kensington Building for the PICU, which required a partial road closure. This meant that traffic had to be redirected to ensure those in labour could still get to the reception of the building quickly and easily. While this work was in motion, Josh was on site with a colleague as Trust representatives to support this and help direct patients to where they needed to go.

Similarly, for another project as part of the gynaecology department project, a new AHU had to be craned into a courtyard. The position of that crane meant the main entrance for the maternity building – which is where neonatal transfers happen – had to close for a short time. To overcome the associated risks, Josh collaborated with the clinical and estates teams to agree the crane lift from 5am on a Saturday morning, with Josh being present on site to manage the process from a Trust perspective.

Josh said: “Overall, being on secondment was integral to the delivery of this work. I was able to form much closer working relationships and work in true collaboration with the teams needed to tackle any given situation throughout the project. Being closer to the clinical team and services and being on the ground to have that true understanding of the impact of any construction work was completely invaluable to me and how made sure we kept the patients at the heart of every decision made for the construction work.”

Pick Everard provided principal designer services for all works, and electrical and mechanical design services for the PICU and cardiac ward. These services were also provided for work on the Kensington Building infrastructure, including phased strip-out, refurbishment and replacement of various features.