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Intensive care at Finchley Hospital

07 May 2013

When SGP Property & Facilities Management was last year awarded the 30-year contract for the new Finchley Memorial Hospital through North London Estates Partnership (the LIFT Company for this £28 project for NHS Barnet), it mobilised a range of FM services at the hospital

The hospital opened in September last year and includes three GP practices, elderly care wards, rehabilitation unit, walk-in centre and outpatient departments as well as audiology, podiatry, cardiology and diagnostic services. SGP is involved in the day-to-day facilities management of the site but also played a role in the design phase of the hospital, ensuring from the outset best practice in maintenance and FM was integrated into the scheme.

''We're proud to work with NHS Barnet to integrate the experience of our teams in managing a healthcare environment, particularly the benchmark standards set at several locations such as West Berkshire Community Hospital and Carseview Centre in Dundee. The award of this contract is an important development in our strategy with the healthcare sector,'' said Kevin Elliott, SGP MD.

I visited the site in February and met three SGP personnel: Gerry Askew, commercial director; Roy Tompkins, mobile facilities manager and David House, marketing manager.

''The public-private partnership (PPP) describes a government service or private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies, and it is used across the world,'' says Askew.

What stood out was Tompkins' infectious enthusiasm for his job - he's a self-confessed technical geek with an impassioned interest in everything that makes the hospital work.

The Perkins standby combined heat and power (CHP) generator is his personal favourite and he can reel off its specifics - the number of cylinders (four, if - like Tompkins - you're a bit of an anorak), the order in which they're arranged and even the order in which they fire. The standby, which has control and monitoring equipment from Deep Sea Electronics, has the capacity to run from between 10 days and two weeks depending on the load.

During a tour of the hospital Tompkins pointed out other points of interest such as the energy-efficient emergency light controls manufactured by Thorlux. There are also solar panels and air handler units on the roof, boilers at the base of the hospital, the recuperation or therapy garden designed for patients recovering from injury, and sophisticated bed-boards (the equipment of which is manufactured by Static Control Systems) and air-conditioning units. Where SGP doesn't maintain all the equipment, it at least had input into the types of equipment used.

The tour included sight of a tiny room in the hospital where two SGP employees monitor a screen giving them a bird's-eye view of the hospital, including its wards and rooms. This is the nerve centre of the SGP operation, for it's here the operators pick up problems with the facilities - toilets that don't flush, lights that don't turn on or off and inefficient (or badly operated) air conditioning units.

The building management system (BMS) used by SGP is a product from Smith & Byford, specialist building services engineers.

Tompkins, who is charged with managing FM functions at the hospital, says a substantial part of his job is relationship building and management. ''There are many parts to looking after the building, first of which is planned maintenance, which is the routine and statutory maintenance of all the plant and kit. This includes ensuring the toilets flush, the lights come on, the heating is on, the electricity powers the building.''

Then there's reactive maintenance. ''If anything breaks down or there's a fault, we attend to that, and because the hospital is so new, there's the defect side to it as well,'' explains Tompkins. ''There's a warranty on the building including all the fittings and fixtures. Anything that is deemed as a defect is referred back to the builders.''

Tompkins points out while there are always snags with such a project, there has - on his watch - been no interruption to service, and he doesn't intend there to be one. ''The other part of that is the lifecycle element. Because the contract is over 30 years, there's a plan to replace plant as it comes to the end of its life.''

Tompkins says his job is to ensure the building stays in the condition in which it was handed to him on 23 July 2012. ''My aim is to keep the building in exactly the same standard - everything working, all services functioning with no interruption to services offered by the Trust.''

I ask him whether there are unique challenges with respect to managing FM in a hospital environment. ''Not a lot as it's all about making sure the building functions. Particular to Finchley in the initial stages was educating the users as they came over to the new hospital. When the building was still just a shell I put on my hard hat and boots and walked around, familiarising myself with the structure. I needed to know where the equipment was going to go, and where there would potentially be access issues.

''People moving over from the old site to the new included nurses who've been there for more than 40 years - they'll call the helpdesk when they can't find a light switch. That's because we have a PRI in the ceiling that regulates the lights, and it's only by communicating and establishing relationships with our users that we're able to overcome that frustration.''

Gerry Askew points out that the payment mechanism that is part of the contract - which outlines the service levels and key performance indicators - is strict and carries heavy penalties for failures on SGP's part that hinders service. ''There are mechanisms in place to ensure we do the job to a high standard.''

He also says when dealing with the public such as inpatients, doing the job to the highest standard literally becomes a case of life-and-death. ''With healthcare, for instance, there's the possibility that equipment that isn't properly maintained can endanger people. You have to be aware this is very different from an office environment, although there too you can put people at risk if you don't look after their people's safety.''

SGP has a 24-hour helpdesk, the numbers for which are available to the users of the building and their management. The company operates on 'core' hours (8am-8pm) and 'out-of-core' hours. ''We have KPIs we have to do,'' Tompkins explains, ''and we're also given certain times within which we have to react to problems. What it comes down to is we provide a 24-hour response to the building; we feel we're here to provide a service to the Trust and to the patients.''

And it comes back again to that issue of relationship management. ''Relationships are probably the most important aspect of Roy's job,'' says David House. ''Imagine you have a terrible relationship with the stakeholders, then face the non-renewal of your contract. In this case those relationships are even more important because it's a 30-year contract rather than, say, a two-year contract.''

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