As multidisciplinary teams worked round-the-clock to accomplish to deliver the NHS Nightingale hospitals, two engineers from Mott MacDonald volunteered to take on the daunting task of project managing the largest site in London and NHS Nightingale Hospital North West. Their skills enabled the massive field hospitals to care for patients within two weeks of being announced.
Ian Watkins’ usual area of expertise is rail and transportation, having delivered major infrastructure projects including the Battersea Power Station tube station in London. But the project manager at Mott MacDonald stepped up to take the technical lead on the world’s largest critical care facility – NHS Nightingale London – at short notice.
Converting an international convention centre to a life-saving facility required solutions to several major logistical obstacles, including power generation, drainage, clinical waste management and traffic control. As the project manager of NHS Nightingale London, Watkins led a growing team of contractors, managing the interface requirements of the 80-ward field hospital to a tight deadline.
Pragmatic and with excellent leadership qualities, he was able to bring professionals from different backgrounds together, to solve problems quickly.
"Since completion of the NHS Nightingale London in nine days, Ian has also been part of a movement to share the knowledge and experience gained from the project with colleagues in Mott MacDonald and partner organisations, for example in a webinar on 30 April for 650 members of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). These lessons have been applied to other emergency Nightingale Hospitals throughout the UK," says Jonathan Baggs, Regional Director (London and South East England) at the ICE.
Meanwhile, Martyn Frackelton used his 20 years’ experience of project management in the education and health sector to manage the creation of NHS Nightingale Hospital North West. In the space of only 13 days, he coordinated the transformation of the Manchester Central Convention Complex from an exhibition centre to a healthcare facility with up to 630 beds. The project manager at Mott MacDonald was the key interface between the contractor, IHP, and the NHS team that was responsible for the ambitious project. He demonstrated exceptional teamwork and communication skills, coupled with efficient review and decision-making processes, which were key to the successful delivery of the scheme.
"Martyn ensured the team from several organisations worked together to deliver against a tight deadline to support the NHS in providing the required facilities to fight the Coronavirus pandemic for the North West and the UK as a whole," says Emma Antrobus, ICE North West Regional Director.
The Nightingale hospitals were designed to cope with the nightmare scenario that every permanent hospital was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Thankfully, they treated only a fraction of the number they were built to care for, but that does not diminish the achievements of the engineers who delivered them at such an incredible pace, displaying gold-standard project management skills.
The Nightingale hospitals are currently on standby and have been described as an ‘insurance policy’ by Professor Stephen Powis, Medical Director of NHS England. They are ready to open again and treat patients should the need occur in a second wave, for example. There is even the possibility that some facilities could be used for routine appointments and elective treatment to cope with the backlog. So, the Nightingale facilities may prove their most useful yet.