Novus Property Solutions | Tackling healthcare’s theatre space issue head on

Novus Property Solutions | Tackling healthcare’s theatre space issue head on

As the healthcare sector continues to adapt for a post-pandemic future, increasing the amount of theatre space will play a vital role in reducing waiting lists and resuming more desirable service levels. Here, Lee Spencer, Head of Operations – Major Projects at Novus Property Solutions, discusses how working with specialist contractors to temporarily or permanently repurpose existing hospital spaces can offer the ideal solution to the theatre space issue.

Budget restrictions and staff shortages have long been recognised as key challenges for the NHS, resulting in growing delays to treatment for patients. These issues were further exacerbated by the outbreak of Covid-19, which forced a reduction in planned surgeries and other non-urgent procedures intensified by the existing number of theatres simply not being enough to clear the backlog efficiently.

Temporary measures
For any sector, the introduction of short-term measures is often necessary to overcome urgent challenges. Healthcare is no exception, and we saw the use of temporary solutions quickly implemented in response to the pandemic. This strategy can be applied to the theatre space issue, where supply simply isn’t meeting demand but Trusts are facing severely limited budgets.

Portable for-hire mobile units are a popular temporary measure for hospitals trying to combat the escalating waiting lists. These mobile units can offer an ideal interim solution thanks to their versatility, which saw them used for a variety of purposes during the pandemic including as short-term vaccination centres. This flexibility of use means that mobile units can be easily installed into any well-sized space such as car parks, and fitted with the equipment required for a theatre.

Whether opting for a temporary or permanent solution, choosing a trusted contractor with experience in the healthcare sector is key

Permanent solutions
While temporary measures such as mobile units are arguably necessary in the current climate, it’s important to note that they are unlikely to be effective in the long-term. With this in mind, steps must be taken to future-proof theatre spaces and provide practical, permanent solutions for reducing waiting lists as a priority.

It’s clear that Trusts need to invest in theatre space and ideally new theatres would be built, but this often isn’t possible due to space or budget restrictions — and it certainly isn’t a quick option.

An alternative solution is to maximise the useability of existing theatre spaces, by upgrading them to expand their capabilities. For example, adding ultraclean ventilation canopies to make a theatre suitable for orthopaedic surgery is a relatively cost-effective way to increase how a space can be used.

Another option is to create new theatres in underused areas of the hospital. Many office-based hospital staff began working remotely in response to Covid-19 and this way of working remains commonplace, leaving these often large spaces not used to full capacity. It therefore makes sense to convert at least part of these areas into theatres, offering an ideal middle ground between temporary measures and the creation of new buildings.

This method has already beensuccessfully implemented in some NHShospitals, where underused offices havebeen repurposed as ward spaces, andcan therefore be applied as a long-termsolution for creating more theatre space.

The value of specialist contractors
Whether the solution is temporary orpermanent, choosing a trusted contractor with experience in the healthcare sectoris key. Engaging with a specialistcontractor like Novus Property Solutions early in the process will maximise thevalue of the project, allowing Trusts todraw on its expertise as well as reducingdelivery timeframes as the contractor isable to develop the works on site during the design process.

Specialist contractors will also work closely with an established supply chain tosupport the delivery of any healthcare-based project, including upgrades to or theexpansion of theatre spaces. The guarantee of a strong supply chain also offers certainty of delivery and value for money — ideal for Trusts operating with strict budgets.

What’s more, the live nature of hospitals — which largely operate on a 24/7 schedule — means that the expertise of specialist contractors and supply chain partners is valuable beyond the delivery of the work itself: it’s crucial for ensuring projects are carried out safely, effectively, flexibly, and with compassion.

Prioritising infection control is vital in hospital settings, where not only can infection spread quickly and easily, but also it can be detrimental to patients who may be more vulnerable. Contractors specialising in the healthcare sector are well-versed in infection control measures, from social distancing to effective waste removal.

As well as implementing a robust infection control strategy, early engagement with a specialist contractor is also valuable in planning how the work will be carried out with minimal disruption to patients, staff and visitors.

Experienced contractors will collaborate with estates departments and other stakeholders to establish a bespoke strategy for minimising contractor-patient interface throughout the project. While this can’t always be completely avoided, this partnership approach will help to identify steps that can realistically be taken to reduce contact and disruption, such as site access through separate corridors or where this is not possible, utilising airtight plastic and drywall hoarding to fully divide working spaces temporarily. Measures like these can be discussed during planning stages and subsequently built into the tailored commissioning programme.

Working in collaboration with a specialist contractor offers significant value for any theatre upgrade or expansion project, promising expert advice, guidance and delivery. When combined with the knowledge of estates departments, this expertise will allow programmes to be delivered on time, on budget, and right first time.

For more information on Novus Property Solutions services for healthcare visit


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