The past two years have seen healthcare construction buck the trend, as private investment has moved to pick up the slack of lost government funding, leading to a modest increase in the value of new starts.
The increase was largely driven by private nursing home investment, with large hospital projects also proving resilient. Many other areas, however, suffered throughout the downturn, with many contractors expecting a turn for the worse in 2013.
But that’s not to say the industry is expecting a comfortable year. The impact of the controversial Health and Social Care Bill is intensifying, with fundamental re-organisations taking place throughout NHS Trusts.
Many contractors are waiting with baited breath for the shape and structure of the NHS Property Services Company to emerge – particularly if and how the effective guarantees previously enjoyed by NHS projects are to be replicated.
Smaller firms are also eagerly anticipating new opportunities that may arise as part of the 14.1 per cent capital cost reduction target set by the government for NHS projects.
CN revealed in November that the contractors on the £4bn ProCure21+ framework are working together on cost-saving solutions for NHS projects. These are due to be presented in March, and will be essential for firms wishing to capitalise on the new shape of health work.
Other essential dates include the HefmA National Conference in May, the NHS Confederation annual conference in June and the IHEEM Healthcare Estates conference in October.
The most keenly-watched contract is the £425m Royal Liverpool PFI project, whose award was delayed late last year and work will not now start until at least July.
Other contracts industry leaders have their eyes on include the £150m Broadmoor Hospital build expected to start in autumn, a possible £120m children’s hospital at Addenbrooke in Cambridge, as well as developments on that hospital’s biomedical campus.
University College Hospital London and the Christie Hospital in Manchester are also in the process of developing the UK’s first proton beam therapy facilities, with £250m in government funding.
New private finance initiatives also hold promise for the health sector in 2013, with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust assessing the suitability of private finance 2 to help fund a new £484m hospital in Smethwick, though any injection of funds for such projects is unlikely to be felt on the ground for some years yet.
The 21 January deadline is also looming for firms to register for Edinburgh’s £150m Royal Hospital for Sick Children, due to start in 2014.
The £660m Framework Scotland 2 contract for NHS Scotland is expected to commence in April, covering new-build and refurbishment work north of the border.
Pebble Mill in Birmingham, meanwhile, is set to move forward with the development of a dental hospital and school of dentistry at the former BBC studios, with planning permission being granted last month. Work on the £30m project is set to start in spring.
Laing O’Rourke, Brookfield Multiplex and Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras are also vying for the £300m Wynyard hospital in Teeside, which will comprise 568 beds.
Other schemes to watch out for as they come to market include the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, set for a preferred bidder in June, a 200-bed hospital in Omagh, County Tyrone, with a preferred bidder to be named in summer, and the £50m Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service National Centre in Edinburgh, with three shortlisted bidders to be selected in March.