The opening of a major new hospital has suffered another setback amid the supply and staff crisis.
The long-awaited Midlands Metropolitan University Hospital in Birmingham was originally set to open in 2018 but has been beset by problems since contractor Carillion collapsed.
Part of the external façade also had to be pulled down and replaced with materials that complied with new fire regulations, adding to the delay.
Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust had been expected to announce a new date for the opening in 2022 after teaming up with new contractors Balfour Beatty – but hospital bosses have now admitted this is extremely unlikely.
Rachel Barlow, the trust’s director of system transformation, said in a report to the board: “It is becoming increasingly unlikely that we will be able to open the hospital in 2022.”
She added: “The impact on the construction industry on the available workforce and required materials are well known and are a live risk which is being actively managed.
“Additionally, we have responded to the new fire regulations with a requirement to replace parts of the external façade that has had an impact on the programme.”
In her report, Ms Barlow said the trust had “some further work to do” with new construction partner Balfour Beatty to review the timeline for when the completed building would be handed over to the trust.
She added that her team would work over the next two months to “confirm a firm 2023 opening date that our patients, staff and partner organisations can have confidence in”.
Noble Francis, economics director of the Commercial Products Association, told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) supply issues had been worsened by the lorry driver crisis, while shortages in construction workers had been “exacerbated by the fall in EU labour in construction in recent years”.
Richard Beeken, chief executive of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, added in a statement: “The new Midland Metropolitan University Hospital construction programme has progressed well during the pandemic, however, there have inevitably been some significant impacts over the past 18 months relating to supplies, workforce availability and replacement of part of the external facade due to changed fire regulations.
“Over the next two months we will continue to work closely with Balfour Beatty to review the work programme, with rustwire expert assessment, so that we can announce a 2023 opening date before the end of the year.”
Plans for the hospital were put forward 10 years ago as the first of 40 new hospitals under a flagship government programme.
They involve relocating acute services from Sandwell General and Birmingham City Hospital to the new facility.
A Balfour Beatty spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with the trust to ensure the successful completion of this landmark project which will deliver significant benefit to the local community for many generations to come.”