Supply crisis and staff shortage halt construction of major new hospital

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The opening of a big new hospital in the midst of a supply and staff crisis has dealt another blow.

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The long-awaited Midlands Metropolitan University Hospital in Birmingham was originally scheduled to open in 2018, but has been marred by problems since the collapse of contractor Carillion.

Part of the exterior façade also had to be pulled down and replaced with materials that complied with the new fire regulations, adding to the delay.

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Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust were expected to announce a new date in 2022 to work closely with new contractors Balfour Beatty – but hospital owners have now admitted that is highly unlikely.

Rachel Barlow, the trust’s director of systems transformation, said report good To the board: “It is becoming increasingly impossible that we will be able to open a hospital in 2022.”

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She added: “The impact on the construction industry on the available workforce and materials needed is well known and is a lively risk that is being actively managed.

“Additionally, we have responded to the new fire regulations with the need to replace parts of the exterior façade that had an impact on the program.”

In her report, Ms Barlow said the trust had “some more work to do” with new construction partner Balfour Beatty to review the timeline for when the completed building would be handed over to the trust.

He said his team will work over the next two months to “confirm a firm opening by 2023 that our patients, staff and partner organizations can rely on”.

Noble Francis, economics director of the Association for Commercial Products, said Health Services Journal (HSJ) Supply issues were worsened by the lorry driver crisis, while shortages in construction workers were “accelerated by the decline in EU labor in construction in recent years”.

Richard Beaken, chief executive of the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said in a statement: “The new Midland Metropolitan University Hospital construction program has made good progress during the pandemic, however, there have inevitably been some significant impacts relating to the past 18 months. Replacement of part of the supply, workforce availability and outstation due to changed fire regulations.

“Over the next two months we will continue to work closely with Balfour Beatty to review the work program, along with an independent expert assessment, so that we can announce an opening date of 2023 before the end of the year.”

Plans for the hospital were put forward 10 years ago as the first of 40 new hospitals under a major government program.

They include moving rapid services from Sandwell General and Birmingham City Hospital to the new facility.

A Balfour Beatty spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with the Trust to ensure the successful completion of this historic project, which will bring significant benefits to the local community for many generations to come.”

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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