Could a new way of funding healthcare estates be the shot in the arm the NHS has been looking for?

A theatre nurse in full PPE, scrubbing up ready for surgery. Behind them is a large, medical grade sink and a yellow wall.

With NHS repair backlogs reaching record levels, and the future of the new hospitals programme facing an uncertain future, leading modular construction firms Darwin Group and Portakabin bosses are calling for a rethink around how healthcare estates are planned and funded.

Darwin Group and Portakabin have combined their strengths to deliver excellence in modern healthcare environments.

Over the last 12 months, both companies have been looking at how modular construction and alternative funding options could transform the idea of what a modern healthcare estate could look like.

Darwin Group CEO, Richard Pierce, said he believes a strategic overhaul is long overdue.

“We know the transformational effect that an outstanding healthcare estate can have on patient care, in addition to improving staff satisfaction, morale and wellbeing,” he said.

“We also know that much of the existing healthcare estate across the country – both NHS and private-sector – is simply unfit for purpose because of the ever-changing healthcare needs and demands.

“The NHS needs greater financial flexibility and an entirely new approach to the way it builds new hospitals and other facilities. While standardisation is essential, the healthcare sector needs more than Hospital 2.0. We want to reimagine the way healthcare estates are designed and built to ensure true flexibility is built in from the very start. That means planning for changes in building use according to future healthcare needs in various ways, such as having the ability to easily add extra floors or change internal configurations across the estate when needed.

“Funding challenges hinder the progression of healthcare estates, from Cdel funding restrictions to an ever-increasing demand on services.  We as partners need to reimagine what’s possible – and we are ready to make that change to ensure our healthcare estates are fit for purpose, now and in the future.”

By combining their expertise and manufacturing capabilities, Portakabin and Darwin Group can offer one of the fastest and most comprehensive solutions possible to the healthcare sector.

A photograph of Foleshill Health Centre, a Portakabin project
Robert Snook, Managing Director, from Portakabin, said: “We don’t just want to plug the gaps – we want to reimagine the modern healthcare estate to ensure today’s hospitals are also fit for tomorrow. That means rethinking how we design, build and fund our entire healthcare estate to provide complete flexibility and adaptability. “While a local community’s most significant health need might need a diagnostic centre today, that could change in 10 or 20 years’ time, when there might be greater demand for maternity services, or an orthopaedic centre. We need buildings and estates that can adapt to keep up with this need. “Our ultimate vision is to create a truly flexible healthcare estate that can be easily adapted to cope with future pressure and need, encompassing permanent and temporary structures that can be changed and adapted as local needs shift.” Mr Pierce added: “We want to future-proof healthcare facilities to ensure we avoid a repeat of some of the endemic problems that we’re now seeing. Issues such as crumbling RAAC estates and multi-million-pound backlog maintenance lists have been caused by adopting a ‘sticking plaster’ approach with no strategic foresight on how the overall system will need to evolve and adapt. We’re here to change that.”
A photograph of the inside of Fareham Community Hospital, a Portakabin project. The photo shows a reception or nurse's station with a wide corridor leading away


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