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Associate Feature: Delivering modern hospitals to improve Scottish healthcare

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Associate Feature: Delivering modern hospitals to improve Scottish healthcare

NHS Scotland is planning to invest in next-generation hospitals to create better, modern buildings that benefit their staff and patients. This represents a significant investment of capital in the health of several generations of Scots, and it is imperative that the final projects are not just delivered on time and on budget, but also enable staff to use the latest technology to deliver the best possible care.

An established construction partner

Construction company Laing O’Rourke has a specialist healthcare sector team with a strong track record of delivering world-class facilities, including in Scotland.

It has recently delivered the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital, which opened to patients in September 2022. It is the latest example of how NHS England is seeking to improve patient outcomes by creating ultra-modern facilities.

However, it’s a hospital that nearly didn’t get built following the collapse of Carillion in 2018.

When Carillion went bust, it left two major UK hospitals incomplete - the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Birmingham. 

Despite the need for significant remedial work, Laing O’Rourke completed the Royal Liverpool last Autumn. The new 640-bed hospital is a spacious, modern, hi-tech environment that helps clinicians and nurses provide the world-class care for which the NHS is renowned.

At the same time as it was completing the new Royal, Laing O’Rourke also had a team working next door to deliver the 110-bed Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. On the two projects, Laing O’Rourke delivered more than 120,000m2 of hi-spec healthcare facilities on the campus

Delivering with care

Holyrood spoke with Rory Pollock, Laing O’Rourke’s healthcare sector specialist and Project Director, Andy Thomson, to discuss the organisation’s work in greater depth.

Rory Pollock: “We’re delivering healthcare assets to our clients with certainty on cost, programme, quality, and technical compliance, and we do that by pooling the knowledge acquired through decades of healthcare experience. I feel privileged to work with teams responsible for creating 16 major UK hospitals in the past decade, and 12 hospital facilities of varying size in Scotland. In Scotland we have worked with a number of NHS Boards delivering the likes of Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary, The Lanarkshire Beatson for NHS Lanarkshire, The Royal Victoria Building for NHS Lothian and, in 2011, Forth Valley Hospital.” 

When speaking about the variety of healthcare projects Laing O’Rourke’s teams have worked on, Rory speaks passionately about the benefits beyond those provided to staff and patients by the new buildings. 

“It’s vital we engage with local people and small businesses to create training, education and employment opportunities, to leave a lasting legacy.” 

Andy Thomson, Laing O’Rourke’s Project Director has been pivotal in the successful delivery of The Royal Liverpool and Dumfries & Galloway hospitals, and most recently, St James Quarter, Edinburgh. 

He said: “One of the first things we do on a project is establish a social value and community benefits strategy. The projects we build can be transformational for local communities. In Edinburgh, we created 95 apprenticeships during the project.

“At the Royal Liverpool, we created 283 new jobs. In Dumfries & Galloway we created 40 apprenticeships and two thirds of the workforce were from the local area. In areas where we discover that employees of smaller businesses don’t have the skills or capacity to work on such a huge project, we provide support initiatives, such as digital upskilling for example.

“It’s this local value and the legacy we leave which motivates our entire team.”

Unique buildings, full compliance

Discussing the engineering complexities, Rory points out that while every project is unique, there are common elements to hospitals that must be compliant with very specific criteria:

“We have developed clinically engineered solutions into a kit-of-parts approach which can respond to the needs of individual clients. There are huge opportunities for standardisation within hospitals, and we bring industry leading expertise to support the design development journey. We also understand that a hospital’s identity is paramount and we pay careful attention to the non-clinical, public realm spaces to create a welcoming environment for patients and staff. 

“The expertise embedded throughout our own in-house supply chain is tremendously beneficial. Our mechanical and electrical company, Crown House Technologies, has extensive experience and know exactly what it takes to deliver the engineering services for highly complex major health projects.”

Delivering certainty by building twice

Laing O’Rourke’s process involves building each hospital twice; once digitally, then the real thing on site. This process ensures programme and cost requirements are clear from the outset and then met. 

“The Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary is a fantastic example of how close collaboration with the client is key to success. It’s very powerful when everyone, from the management team to clinical staff and patient groups, are able to visualise exactly what they want and how it is to be delivered,” says Andy.

“There is no way we could have constructed the hospital and met the quality and time requirements of the health board without building it virtually first. This, combined with modern methods of construction and our own in-house off-site manufacturing capability, enabled us to meet NHS expectations.

“We are extremely proud that the new building very quickly delivered clear clinical benefits, when the hospital acquired infection rate plummeted to almost zero very soon after patients were moved into the hospital.

“This is largely down to a combination of design, installation, and commissioning; the single bed occupancy rooms and the excellent care provided by the clinical teams.” 

The impact of these factors resonated strongly with Julie White, Chief Operating Officer for NHS Dumfries & Galloway, who said: 

“The quality of our hospital is remarkable. It was opened in 2017 and from day one has transformed how we provide healthcare in this region.

“Owing to the design and workmanship standards, we have next to zero infection spread in the hospital.”

Rory added that the next to zero infection spread has also been seen at Laing O’Rourke’s recently completed Grange University Hospital, Wales and Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

The future

“If the government can deliver its ambition to spend £10bn in the next ten years to upgrade, renew, or refurbish existing facilities, we are going to see a transformation in how care is provided here in Scotland,” said Rory.

“We continuously innovate incorporating more environmental awareness at every stage of our work and have the capabilities to help develop pathfinder projects to create net zero carbon assets, which aligns with NHS Scotland’s ambition to deliver a net zero carbon hospital.”

With the nation’s healthcare system facing challenges on several fronts, the Scottish Government’s vision to create new, state-of-the-art hospitals, is an opportunity to transform the working experience of NHS Scotland staff, improve patient outcomes and benefit local communities. Laing O’Rourke’s unrivalled experience in the healthcare sector stands it in good stead to deliver the world-class facilities 


This article is sponsored by Laing O’Rourke.

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Read the most recent article written by Holyrood Magazine - Holyrood 522 / 12 February 2024.

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