The vital role modular infrastructure solutions play in helping the NHS “build back better” is explored in a series of papers recently published by The British Journal of Healthcare Management.

With the NHS facing an unprecedented backlog in patient care and building maintenance, the papers explore how modular healthcare facilities help healthcare services overcome these challenges and their impact on service delivery, finance and population well-being.

The peer-reviewed studies, by author Isobel Clough, set out how modular healthcare facilities, such as those created by Vanguard Healthcare Solutions, can provide “flexible and cost-effective spaces” which allow services to increase capacity and have benefits not just for healthcare services but for staff and patients also.

The papers look closer at the challenges faced by the NHS across its estate which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, practical considerations for the commissioning and delivery of modular facilities and placing modular facilities in a resource-limited healthcare system. Modular Infrastructure

Research in the papers show it is estimated that the equivalent of 22 new hospitals with 800 beds each will be needed by 2027 and a total of 5.4 million people are waiting for routine procedures and operations, with 385 000 waiting over a year for surgery.

These are significant challenges and the “Building Back Better” series  set out a case for the use of modular infrastructure solutions to help healthcare services to increase their capacity to overcome them, stating: “innovative solutions to increase capacity in NHS hospitals have never been more sorely needed.”

To demonstrate how modular solutions have already been successfully deployed within the NHS, the papers share two cases studies; Queen Mary’s Hospital in London and Newcastle Westgate Cataract Centre. Both of these projects saw Vanguard work with Trusts to develop innovate modular infrastructure solutions and allow them to increase capacity and ultimately drive down waiting times.

At Queen Mary’s, St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust needed to find a solution for the growing surgical backlog in south-west London. Surgical capacity had been a long‑standing problem and had been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roehampton

In real terms, the hospital was performing 10 608 fewer operations than expected between March 2020 and May 2021 and the number of patients needing routine surgery in south-west London could have increased by as much as 30 000 since the pandemic began.

A large part of this backlog were day-case surgeries and that was where the trust decided to focus. To do this they needed a stand-alone facility at Queen Mary’s Hospital. The solution needed to provide the space needed for the entire patient journey, from arrival to discharge home, with minimal risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The trust chose a modular solution as additional capacity was needed in months, rather than years. Vanguard worked with the trust to develop a bespoke modular facility which includes four high-specification operating theatre rooms, plus a recovery ward, consulting rooms, staff facilities and utility areas. The solution was delivered in 5 months and since its opening, an average of 120 procedures a week have been performed within the complex.

The paper also explores a second Vanguard project which uses an innovative and bespoke modular solution to create additional capacity. At Newcastle General Hospital, thanks to a brand-new multi-theatre, purpose-built stand-alone facility, more than 1000 cataract procedures a month are being carried out, significantly helping the Trust reduce waiting times for this essential procedure. This facility was installed in just four months.

The series, which concludes that modular facilities such as those developed by Vanguard, provides a flexible and cost-effective means of expanding capacity and improving services in a resource-limited environment can be read here.