Remedial building work is being conducted at one of the most prominent teaching hospitals in the country after it was discovered that builders had failed to follow safety specifications adequately.
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust was constructed following one of the largest private finance initiatives agreed by the British government, but is currently experiencing some severe difficulties.
It has been reported that the trust had already raised concerns with the provider of its PFI funding as early as two years ago.
At this time it became clear to the hierarchy of the trust that structural defects were present in building work at the hospital, which could lead to fire spreading around the building.
Remedial works began in late 2015 and are set to miss an August 2017 deadline for completion.
According to a spokesman from the trust, additional steps have been taken in order to ensure that the hospital remains safe while the remedial works are undertaken.
Estimated charging for the PFI for the current financial year is £87.4 million, meaning that this is the second most expensive PFI deals among NHS trusts.
The PFI is operated by Coventry and Rugby Hospitals PLC; a company set up specifically to run the contract.
This company is chaired by Julie Acred, former chief executive of Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust.
Official border papers indicate that the chief operating officer of the trust, David Eltringham, met with the PFI partner recently in order to discuss procedures relating to the threat of fire.
Moody’s recently downgraded the credit rating of the company from ‘positive’ to ‘stable’ owing to its failure to meet deadlines related to remedial work.
“Whilst performing remedial works, the PFI company identified additional fire protection items that require rectification. These new items will significantly extend the works schedule, primarily because more extensive patient decants will be required,” a report from Moody’s noted.
Commenting on the issue, a University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust spokesperson indicated that the trust had already undergone a process with the intention of responding to this problem.
“Firstly we can assure our patients, staff and visitors that we remain vigilant in ensuring fire safety standards are maintained at all times. Following a review of the fire safety separation at University Hospital in 2015, we learned of some potential issues with the infrastructure. As a result of these issues, we immediately launched an internal investigation to determine if any further steps needed to be taken to make the site safer.”
The spokesperson also indicated that additional steps have been taken in order to reassure interested parties that hospitals in the region will deliver adequate safety
“We have worked with our PFI provider to develop a programme of remedial works, which are in progress. Until they are completed, we have taken steps to strengthen our already robust fire safety procedures, including putting on additional patrols and increasing rubbish collections, as well as reminding all staff who work at University Hospital of our fire safety policies. We also alerted West Midlands Fire Service to the issue and have been working with them closely.”
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust accrued a deficit in excess of £30 million in the most recent financial year.