Chris McGhee: My time working on NHS Louisa Jordan

Chris McGhee is framework manager for Kier Regional Building Scotland and was part of the team who helped convert the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow into NHS Louisa Jordan. Here, Chris shares his experience on the project and how the construction industry united at a time when the country needed it

Chris McGhee: My time working on NHS Louisa Jordan

Chris Mcghee (left) and his colleague Grant Bradford at NHS Louisa Jordan

It was 8.30 on Saturday, 28 March and my colleague Grant Bradford and I walked the short distance from the car park to the SEC. We stood outside 2m apart and near our Principal Supply Chain Partners from Frameworks Scotland 2, the procurement programme which provides construction-related services for NHS health or social care projects, waited.

The day before, we had received a request from Health Facilities Scotland to meet, but the details were brief. We waited as security guards checked our credentials against a list, talking about what we might be doing with our afternoons; the consensus was that we would be home in time for lunch.

We were led into a room and as we all took a seat safely distanced from one another. I recognised architects and members of the NHS team, but there were also a number of unfamiliar faces in uniform; interspersed were several members of the British Army. The serious expressions on their face were the first indication of the challenge we faced.

It was then that we were briefed on converting the SEC into a temporary hospital, in just 20 days, and provide 1,000 beds. We knew it would not be easy, but as we stood in the SEC, it was clear that this was a time for us all to unite and help our community in response to COVID-19.

We spent the rest of the weekend planning and securing resources and on Tuesday, 31 March we walked back through the SEC doors with our teams and set to work. It was reassuring to have our colleagues by our side and the wealth of experience they all possessed.

In my whole career, I think this is the finest example of collaboration that I have ever seen. The instant camaraderie between our framework partners, NHS, designers, specialist contractors, consultants and suppliers was incredible; a testament to everyone’s professionalism, capability and resolve.

We knew what needed to be done and we were all committed to achieving it. Every day, we reviewed our plans, held frequent meetings, challenged one another and made joint decisions. Safety was always our priority, with all works carried out in accordance with the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures, and together we were able to make swift and accurate decisions at this crucial time.

The next 20 days were probably the most challenging, gruelling and fulfilling of my career.

Everyone worked tirelessly, and the operation went 24 hours in order to complete the project. At the peak of construction, there were over 550 contractors working; collectively the framework partners worked over 120,000 hours. During this time, we transformed over 24,500m2 of the SEC to become the NHS Louisa Jordan, a hospital with 1,000 beds and support facilities.

It is incredible what we have been able to construct in just a matter of weeks. Some of the finest, smartest, resourceful, persistent and tenacious people from NHS and Scotland’s construction industry stepped up and ensured our NHS staff, doctors and nurses have the best possible facilities to care for our community.

We achieved our objective and completed construction within the timeframe and to a high standard. As the contractors were leaving for the final time the NHS formed a guard of honour to thank everyone for their efforts. It was an incredible gesture and it was fitting that I was able to share these final moments with Grant, agreeing the memory would last a lifetime.

I feel privileged to have played a small part in the construction of NHS Louisa Jordan and I am immensely proud of my Kier teammates and our industry as a whole, as we have united at a time when it was needed most.

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.

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