Portakabin is the UK’s best known manufacturer and supplier of high-quality modular buildings, that being buildings manufactured off site under strict quality-controlled factory conditions and then delivered and installed on site with the minimum of fuss. Modern high-tech design methods, shorter programme times and sustainability benefits have all contributed to Portakabin becoming the supplier of choice across a range of industries.

Along with its reputation for providing stunning permanent structures; buildings for short-term hire, and critical emergency cover across every part of society, Portakabin has a long history of providing vital support to the NHS. The unique requirements of the healthcare sector for safety, speed, minimisation of disruption and the demands of a varied and wide-ranging estate are well understood by the experts at Portakabin.

As a smooth working partnership has developed over the years the procurement process has been streamlined to enable NHS Trusts to have faster access to the solutions they need, for instance through the inclusion of Portakabin on the NHS Shared Business Services procurement framework.

The NHS has such a huge responsibility to maintain budgets and not allow project delays that it has been able to take reassurance from the Portakabin promise to always be on time and on budget. Uniquely, that promise is backed up by a financial commitment because in the unlikely event that Portakabin ever fails to meet the contract start date, customers who are hiring a building would receive a week’s free hire for every day it’s late, or if they are buying a building, they’d get a 1% refund of the contract value for every week it’s late.1

The vast experience gained over almost 60 years of successfully working alongside the NHS came into its own during the recent pandemic crisis.

The examples are numerous: isolation units for Hywel DDA University Health Board; assessment pods and washing facilities for Northern Health and Social Care Trust in Antrim and a 30-bed ward built specifically to treat coronavirus patients built in just eight weeks for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.

Initially, when the UK was in its ‘containment’ stage, hospitals required assessment pods to test as many individuals as possible and we saw a high demand from Trusts who needed these in the shortest possible turn-around times. We were in the fortunate position of already being in discussions with NHS England and NHS Improvement so we were able to move very fast.

Victoria Phillips, Healthcare Specialist, Portakabin

While the teams at Portakabin have been focused on a safe and Covid-secure response to emergency requirements, on-going larger scale installations have not been forgotten or side-lined either. 

As an example, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have just taken delivery of a state-of-the-art 60-bed modular ward installed during this period at Whiston Hospital. It houses two new 30-bed wards, one as a “step down” ward for patients who no longer need acute treatment and the other as a “decant” ward to allow older wards to be closed for refurbishment. At Whiston, Portakabin provided a full turn-key solution from start to finish, meaning that everything required for a fully functioning facility was supplied as part of the programme.  That included a canopied walk way, ramped access, medical gases, functional bed lifts and everything from design and planning permission to finalising the colourful hoarding around the site.

Another advantage of the Portakabin approach particularly relevant to the NHS is the way that new buildings can be integrated and adapted around existing legacy buildings. At the Princess Alexandra Hospital the state-of-the-art ‘Charnley Ward’, had to be suspended 25 feet above a car park and link directly to the first floor of the hospital. 

From the decision to construct the ward in August, to the opening just 16 weeks later, the Trust worked closely with Portakabin, to build the facility on the existing site footprint.

Portakabin provides buildings that function at every point in a patient’s journey. At Stoke Mandeville the need to ensure patients were seen and assessed as soon as they arrived was addressed by facilities for additional A&E cover to cope at its busiest times and the centre was operational after only 12 weeks.

The role that modular construction can play in giving us the NHS facilities we deserve is about to move into a new phase. Many scheduled building programmes have been impacted by the unavoidable cessation of works but the requirements have not gone away.

With shortened programme times and an increased Government commitment to make sure the NHS is ready for the future, the ability to build high-quality hospital buildings fast will be more important than ever and that’s where Portakabin can really play its part.

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