Stepping up to support the NHS

Beds on a hospital ward

Barnes has worked in the health sector regionally since the early 80s - Credit: Paul Nixon Photography

Sue Wilcock speaks to Bob Steward and Mark Bailey from Barnes Construction on how they are mobilising their supply chain to speed up the delivery of NHS projects. 

We all know, and are thankful for, the tremendous work being done by our NHS staff who are on the frontline battling the ravages of the pandemic. Yet, many will be unaware of the work being done by those in construction, who are coming together to help the NHS the best way they can. 

A man wearing a suit and tie

Bob Steward, joint MD of Barnes Construction - Credit: Credit Paul Nixon Photography

Bob Steward, joint managing director of Barnes Construction, said: 

“We are proud that we are doing our bit to support the NHS in this time of crisis, by responding quickly and mobilising our supply chain to carry out construction work that helps to increase hospital capacity. 

“We have worked in the health sector regionally since the early 80s, often constructing projects in ‘live’ medical environments that are generally active 24 hours a day. Therefore, we understand intrinsically that the welfare and safety of patients and staff is paramount.” 

Barnes’ portfolio of long-term clients in the health sector is impressive and, as well as Ipswich and West Suffolk, includes the hospitals at Addenbrooke’s, Colchester and Norfolk & Norwich University. Schemes successfully delivered range from the installation of new MRI scanners and cardiology equipment, to intermediate care facilities and pharmacies. And other work in this sector outside the parameters of hospitals has included doctors and dental surgeries, hospices and care homes. 

“Under normal circumstances, these projects present unique challenges and require time for us to assess the potential risks well in advance, such as making sure that the hospital won’t be affected by lack of power if electrical downtime is needed for some of the work,” Mr Steward continued. 

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“So, precision planning is key to the successful delivery of an NHS project. Yet, even more vital, especially in this time of crisis, is having a strong and robust supply chain which is flexible and can respond quickly when needed.” 

So, how has Barnes and its supply chain been able to help its long-standing clients, Ipswich and West Suffolk Hospitals during the pandemic? 

“We stepped up to assist Ipswich Hospital during the first lockdown, providing one of our buildings adjacent to our head office so they could use it to store surplus equipment and office furniture, freeing up valuable space at the hospital,” Mr Steward explained. 

“Then, in anticipation of the expected second wave, we were asked to carry out the total refurbishment of Waveney Ward and a rooftop extension to a treatment centre at the hospital. At 

the same time, we were also commissioned to construct the Rapid Assessment and Treatment area at West Suffolk Hospital.” 

Mark Bailey is director at Barnes and heads up the delivery of NHS projects. He added: “As well as already having a strong relationship with Ipswich and West Suffolk, we also have a proven track record of successful projects being delivered through our well-established supply chain. The difference with all three of these schemes was the urgency in which they were needed. As well as having very little lead-in time, they had extremely challenging completion periods of two to three months, as they needed to be ready for occupation by the end of December. 

“This was further exacerbated by the fact that, due to COVID-19, we were working under new site operating procedures, which makes a challenging situation slightly more difficult. 

“However, our flexibility and our speed of response in getting these schemes over the line as quickly as possible is testament to the proactiveness and willingness of our staff and supply chain; all who were prepared to step up and go the extra mile in a time of need.” 

As well as speeding up the design and surveying stages, the projects required flexible working hours, often seven days a week, double shifting. Schemes were worked on concurrently, with the teams carrying out construction without disturbing adjacent wards and working around existing hospital equipment. 

Mr Steward is thankful to all who are involved. 

“Our supply chain answered the call, and we are very grateful to them for their willingness to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and do whatever was necessary to get the job done. I’m especially appreciative of the consultant team of Castons, KLH, MLM and JSH, who we worked with collaboratively to ensure design flow was targeted to meet the demands of the challenging construction programme,” he said. 

“I have no doubt that without everyone’s proactiveness and adaptability, we wouldn’t have succeeded in doing our bit to help.” 

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