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Equipment waste kept to a minimum during refurb

North Bristol NHS Trust’s ambitious plans to replace two existing hospitals with a £430m ‘super hospital’ also required an ambitious plan to reduce equipment wastage and safeguard materials.

The trust was looking for a one-stop solution that would maximise recycling potential. It signed a collaborative deal with hospital clearance expert Benji and Company (BCL Services) and auctioneering firm Hilditch.

Southmead Hospital clearance took 28 days while the Frenchay Hospital clearance took a total of 21 weeks. How did they do this? The trust, Hilditch and BCL identified equipment remaining across the old hospital sites and placed them into three groups: needing disposal, resale or reuse. Items being sold or disposed of then needed to be removed from the sites.

Some items such as MRI and X-ray machines required specialist removal. The equipment listed moved across the three groups. Some items, particularly clinical equipment, were pulled back from resale because they could be reused within North Bristol due to an insufficient number being transferred or items that had broken. There was, for example, a high recall on patient high-backed chairs and examination couches. Some specialist equipment such as bariatric chairs, clinical trolleys and patient monitoring equipment was also recalled.

General items such as desks, chairs and drawer units were recalled on request from the trust, where it became apparent that there was space for additional items or some of the transferring items were in poor condition.

“There was a high level of concern and sensitivity from staff and the general public around the disposal of public-funded equipment,” says Benji Rees, managing director and founder of BCL. “So the high level of reuse and recycling went a long way towards satisfying and alleviating both the trust and individuals’ fears.”

Rees says that while the savings achieved from equipment reuse was never fully broken down, the trust estimates it to be £60,000- £100,000. Daily site meetings were held between the North Bristol, BCL and Hilditch to ensure all were fully aware of what the trust was recalling and what areas were approved for clearance.

Rees explains: “Because all parties were on-site, it was easy to get to an area and specify items that could either go or would need to remain for reuse. There was free-flowing communication, which meant all parties had a clear understanding of what was available for clearance and where there was any query.”

BCL further maximised the recycling content of every item and skip by breaking down as many items as possible – such as desks and chairs, removing cables and taking cabinets apart – into component parts. This allowed for better skip use as well as separation of items into specialist areas to maximise recycling potential. Rees adds: “Most hospitals do not do this as part of their standard waste disposal.”

BCL has more waste contacts and access to additional waste stream routes than the trust would have by itself, which also helped to maximise recycling. While breaking down bulky items was time-consuming, it increased the amount of material that could be recycled, says Rees, meaning little went into the general waste and a reduced number of skips was needed.

A waste reduction unit was used to minimise the waste footprint further. These measures all helped to cut down on the number of journeys to and from the site to deliver and drop off skips.

The budget allocated by North Bristol for skip hire was £150,000, but BCL’s approach meant it spent just £31,726. The trust would normally have used around 802 skips but instead used just 270.

In total the collaboration removed 2,768 tonnes of material for recycling. This included an additional 1,913 tonnes that would not normally have been recycled. The total tonnage can be broken down into 465 tonnes of reuse (by the trust and through being auctioned by Hilditch), 280 tonnes of recycled waste and 390 tonnes of general waste. In total 2,378 tonnes of waste was reused or recycled, which is 86%.

With such a large project it was vital that flexibility was included in the plan. The initial scope of works from the trust did not include some significant areas for clearance, such as plant rooms and some buildings. There were also several significant areas that North Bristol was not able to release as per the original timing schedule on both hospital sites. These were identified while the teams were on-site, and the additional workload was managed within the required timescales.

The trust had also radically altered plans to fully clear the Frenchay site, and initially was only able to offer a partially unoccupied area for clearance. To adapt to this large-scale change, BCL reduced its staffing numbers but increased the total length of time on-site to give the trust the time needed to clear the premises.

Equipment waste kept to a minimum during refurb

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