NEC was used to create a 500-bed temporary hospital in the Harrogate Convention Centre in northern England in just three weeks. The NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the Humber contracts was one of seven built for NHS England in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Six were procured using NEC contracts.
The hospitals were each built in a few weeks within existing events and sports centres between March and June 2020. Those at Harrogate, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Exeter were delivered through the NHS Procure 22 framework using NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option C (target contract with activity schedule). The same contract was used outside the framework for Nightingale Hospital North East in Washington.
Elsewhere in the UK, NHS Scotland’s Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow was procured using NEC3 ECC Option E (cost reimbursable contract) through Frameworks Scotland 2, while Cardiff and Vale University Health Board used NEC4 ECC Option E for the Dragon’s Heart Hospital in Cardiff. Jersey’s Health and Community Services also used NEC3 ECC Option E for the States of Jersey Nightingale Hospital in St Hellier.
The Harrogate project involved converting eight halls of the 1982 Harrogate Convention Centre into a critical-care hospital. Work included installing 18,000 m2 of partition walls, 15,000 m2 of vinyl flooring, 160 km of electrical cabling, 7 Ml of oxygen tanks and a wide variety of specialist mechanical and electrical installations.
Following initial logistics support from British Army, client Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust engaged Bam Construct as main contractor and Arcadis as NEC project manager on 29 March 2020. In total over 600 people worked more than 30,000 hours on site to create 500 critical-care beds in three weeks. The hospital was officially opened by 99-year-old NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Thomas Moore on 21 April.
According to Andrew Gate, the NHS Estates Delivery Team regional delivery director responsible for the Harrogate project, there were strategic benefits to using NEC3 ECC Option C. ‘As well as being a well-understood form of contract, there was an appropriate risk share between the parties. This enabled the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and principal supply chain partner Bam Construct to get on with delivery.’
He said the timing of the Harrogate project was absolutely critical and delivery was running seven days a week. ‘The target cost also meant we had full control on spend. Overall NEC’s required collaborative approach between the contractor, their subcontractors and the client team was very effective.’
NEC project manager Julie Hirlam of Arcadis said, ‘NEC brought benefits to the entire team at Harrogate, including a genuine partnering and collaborative team approach on shared goals, fair reward and transparent working. There was an open, honest and transparent team structure with clear accountability, and a clear understanding of the target cost at the project outset.’
She said the standard Procure 22 ECC Option C contract was amended to take away the pain/gain mechanism to reflect the fact that the target cost was considered a ‘provisional amount’ given the timescales involved and the need for flexibility. The UK government’s Covid-19 Public Procurement Notices PPN01/20 and PPN02/20 were also built into the contract to enable swifter payments and more relaxed competitive procurement conditions on the supply chain.
‘NEC's flexibility allowed all this without major changes to the standard terms. Using ECC Option C ensured actual costs were charged, meaning the client was not exposed to a fixed priced with no route to a saving when the final cost came in. This gave the contractor confidence it would recover its project costs, reducing any commercial tensions.’
Benefits of using NEC
- NEC is a well-understood form of contract with appropriate risk share, enabling the client and contractor to focus on delivering the hospital in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
- ECC Option C target cost gave the client full control on spending and gave the contract full confidence it would recover its project costs.
- NEC’s required collaborative approach, with shared goals, fair reward and transparent working, created an open and honest team structure with clear accountability.
- NEC’s flexibility enabled the pain/gain mechanism to be changed to reflect the need for rapid completion, and for new government guidance to be included on payments and procurement.