Coronavirus: BHRUT spends £1.8m on temporary car park ward not needed after Covid-19 infection fall

King George Hospital in Goodmayes.

King George Hospital in Goodmayes. - Credit: Ken Mears

A hospital trust paid out £1.8 million towards a temporary ward it did not require after a drop in coronavirus infections.

Documents published ahead of a meeting of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust’s (BHRUT) board on Wednesday (May 27) revealed the trust agreed to pay the money after deciding it would not progress with the scheme.

The report said the trust entered into a contract in March for a modular ward to be supplied in a bid to increase bed space.

It added that the initial move to install the ward was in response to “volatile demand modelling” relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nick Swift, BHRUT’s chief financial officer, said the temporary building for Covid-19 patients was planned for the car park at King George Hospital, Goodmayes.

He told the meeting that the 96-bed capacity ward would have cost around £9million if completed.

Mr Swift confirmed the trust, which also runs Queen’s Hospital in Romford, looked at ways to increase capacity around the peak of the pandemic in mid to late March.

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He said: “At that time, the number of patients with Covid-19 needing intensive care beds was increasing rapidly and was expected to double every three days. Working with partners across north east London, we looked at ways of increasing our capacity quickly to ensure we could care for all of these patients, the same reason the Nightingale Hospital was built.”

Mr Swift added that the trust saw the situation stabilise and a reduction in coronavirus infections into April.

“Thankfully, for our patients and communities, we did not reach those predicted levels of seriously ill patients and therefore these additional beds were no longer required,” he said.

“Due to the work which had already taken place, a percentage of the cost had to be paid to the contractor.

“Because we had arranged a contract that was pay as you go rather than committing to that full £9m, we were able to cancel the contract and pay only that amount that we had incurred which was £1.8m.

“While we understand this is a lot of money to spend,​ we couldn’t risk not having enough beds to care for extremely sick patients when Covid-19 infection rates were at their highest.”

Meeting documents confirmed that BHRUT executive members decided not to progress with the modular ward on April 7.

The board ratified the decision at Wednesday’s meeting.