Reflections on the Topping Out Ceremony (held at the site of the new hospital on the 14th September 2016)
In June last year, just 15 months ago, I stood spade in hand alongside Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, in a big green field and said:
‘Today marks the start of one of the most significant periods in the history of public services in Dumfries and Galloway.’
We were marking a significant milestone, ‘breaking the ground’ for the start of construction of the new District General Hospital (ground works to prepare the site for construction had started in March, just days after Financial Close). I went on to say that we expected it to be delivered on time, on budget and built to the highest standards.
Decent progress on that front I think.
The decision to invest in a new hospital was taken well before that date, indeed before my time as Chairman, and a huge amount of work was put in examining different business and financial options before a final business case was approved in partnership with the Scottish Government in June 2013.
Our corporate team, under the leadership of Jeff Ace the Chief Executive, had complex overlapping work streams to manage, that I could simply categorise under technical, financial, legal and commercial, to get us up to and beyond financial close.
There was however nothing simple about it. I know from my own experience how professionally challenging all of this is.
I take this opportunity to say to Jeff that the leadership demonstrated in delivering on this vision through clear direction, the creation and motivation of a top team, and importantly the confidence to let them get on and do what they are best left to do is outstanding.
Turning now to that top team, Chief Operating Officer, Julie White who is the Project Executive and Katy Lewis our Finance Director have taken this project forward at the same time as doing their day jobs, and also in tandem with Executive roles on our newly established Health and Social Care Integrated Joint Board. Both are held in the highest regard locally and nationally and we are rightly proud of them.
It is also right I think to acknowledge the contributions made by the previous Board under the Chairmanship of my predecessor, Andrew Johnston, who I was delighted could join us at the Topping Out Ceremony.
We see so many examples, in all walks of life, of the negative effects of short termism, and it is really uplifting to see that in Dumfries and Galloway once again we can, and do make strategic decisions for the longer term benefit of the people of our region in the knowledge that these projects will probably be completed after our individual terms of office.
There were many important decisions to make and history will clearly show the foresight and resolve of the Board in providing this region with a health care service to be proud of, and one that stands comparison with best of the rest.
This 344 bed acute facility, which includes; a combined assessment unit, theatres complex, critical care unit and out patients department has been designed, in collaboration with clinicians and patients, adopting new models of care and utilising cutting edge technologies.
All directed towards providing patients with the highest standards of care, and providing our staff with the highest quality working environment.
We required additional community benefits to be delivered through the project, and High Wood Health, in conjunction with construction partner Laing O’Rourke, have more than delivered on their commitment to provide opportunities for local people and businesses. They have exceeded targets set to employ local people, provide apprenticeships, graduate placements and opportunities for small and medium enterprises to tender for contracts.
I was an ex apprentice myself and really value that route through to a lifetimes work.
This project will deliver not only a first class health facility but also a lasting legacy through jobs creation and skills development.
It is also important that I acknowledge the small army of our own staff who, in addition to the day job, are working in 16 or more specialisms and in dynamic teams under the Change Programme that is being skilfully led by John Knox, which I must say impresses me greatly.
John and his team are working to ensure the high quality services delivered at DGRI migrate as seamlessly as possible to our new District General Hospital later in 2017, incorporating amongst other things the most modern technology solutions.
I understand that Graham Gault and his IT team have digitised some 50 million patient records, which if that was the only project we were taking forward would be a huge undertaking in itself.
We have grasped with both hands, the once in a generation opportunity, to examine every aspect of the way we organise our acute workload and our new approaches are being designed very much around our model of Health and Social Care Integration.
Our new hospital may be located in Dumfries but it is central to the decentralised and localised model of care that we are developing across the region.
So in closing, I am absolutely confident that by December 2017 we will have not only the finest District General Hospital imaginable but also a huge number of staff whose work experience has been enriched by their involvement in this project.
Philip N Jones is Chairman of the Board at NHS Dumfries and Galloway