Will BBC Scotland be able to stay interested and focused as Glasgow health board begins action against contractor?

Story sent to us by Brian McGowan:

‘NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has served a summons on Multiplex, Capita Property and Infrastructure Ltd and Currie and Brown UK Limited for losses and damages incurred due to a number of technical issues within the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Children.’

Click to access 2020-01-22-qeuh-finalised-summons.pdf

BBC Scotland have covered this story but have peppered their report with reminders of the ill-informed attacks they made on the board and, of course on both the Health Secretary and the First Minister. As expected, they have also taken the opportunity to dig up again and to dwell morbidly upon the death of one child whose death has not been scientifically linked to any of the above technical issues.

When it emerges, if it does, that fault lies with the sharp practices of a corporation rather than the hoped for incompetence of an SNP politician, it’s difficult to imagine the BBC staying with this story unless they can still find some way to accuse the Health Secretary.

Footnote: Australian corporation Multiplex has been accused of ‘underbidding’ to get the contract for the Royal Hospital for Children & Young People in Edinburgh. Readers won’t need to be told what kind of consequences there can be for quality where a contractor has underbid.

8 thoughts on “Will BBC Scotland be able to stay interested and focused as Glasgow health board begins action against contractor?

  1. One of the consequences – probably, intentional – of ‘outsourcing’ legislation and of the staffing reductions in public services has been that many Councils and public bodies no longer have the level of building control staff that they used to have. This means that they have to rely, increasingly on outside expertise in the development of specifications for projects and also, do not have the expert staff – such as clerks of works – in sufficient quantity to be able to monitor major projects. As a result, public bodies have to rely on contractors ‘self-monitoring’. The rather spurious argument is that if these companies do not self-monitor rigorously they will not get further contracts and also be subject to ‘penalties’. We have seen so many examples of how this has failed.

    Bodger Broon and the EC were as guilty as the Tories in promoting this, and, sadly, there are signs that some within the SNP are of a similar mindset.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alisdair, on the presumption of self-regulation, I know it seems like that a lot of the time, but I have to argue against it. There are actually quite strict health and safety regulation, laws, that apply to contractors. Then there is CDM regulation – this has changed a bit recently so I’m not totally sure of the actual way round it works right now – but it defines who appoints who is the CDM manager, that is, who coordinates between client and contractor, who is responsible for what – like the design, the build etc. There are also different rules for smaller projects than for big. CDM regulation also puts the burden of failure of design on everyone, in particular for health and safety, and if someone is harmed or dies on site, a site manager as well as anyone involved can go to jail for it & the company will be fined.

      On a building not being up to scratch – the client will have to prove it and the contractor will argue against it, of course, and there will be specific contractural clauses – the building should not have been signed off on perhaps. It’s a bit of legal wrangling, but in general builders are on a very small margin and the fines are big enough to make it not worth their while breaking any regulations. But compare this with say the Grenfell situation – I can see no reason why this hasn’t gone immediately to court and councillors and the responsible contractor put in jail – people died. Client and contractor are both to blame there, and the regulations seem clear enough to me, fines and criminal justice should be handed out.

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      1. Thanks for that, Contrary. I am aware that it is more nuanced than I what I had described in my post. It is the nature of such sites that most of us try to make our posts relatively short and specific to a point.

        Most major contracts are substantially carried out by a series of small subcontractors, who, as you say, are often working on fairly tight margins and, in my experience, tend to do their part of the work as well as they can.

        My comment is more directed to the large contractors and relates to the overall contract and these are big and wealthy organisations and, indeed, many of them are not even building specialists, but businesses which contract specialist services to do the work and these specialist services then subcontract the work and this, in turn, can be further subcontracted. So, tracing the chain of accountability can be quite complex. Each of the subcontractors might well do their part pretty well, but the sum of the parts can turn out to be what was in the overall contract.

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      2. Oh yes I know, I wasn’t implying in the slightest that you were misleading anyone on the subject. My rather confused comment itself possibly doesn’t clarify much either.

        The CDM regulations are meant to resolve the issues you describe – so that there are no longer ANY subcontractors – the main contractor has to establish who takes responsibility for any specialist part of work, so the ‘subcontractor’ is either the contractor in its own right, or part of the main contractor’s purview. The client MUST appoint someone as CDM manager – this can be the contractor or anyone they like (this might be the part that has changed in the most recent changes), and they say who is responsible for what. It really is worth a look at how much has changed with these regulations – but they are quite recent and do need all parties to be aware of them (and adhere to them). Really is worth an investigation. I only know as much as I need to – life is too complex as it is – so all this contractual stuff I don’t know so much about.

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    2. Thank you for the information regarding CDM of which I had only a very nebulous idea. From your description it appears to be an attempt at resolving the problems to which I was referring and, as you say, many of the participants are themselves unaware of what the ramifications are and, just as important, does the SG (or whoever is the relevant authority) have the staff who are able to monitor compliance?

      Perhaps, if this case goes to court, we will have some information about how deep the understanding of the duties are and who has been able to monitor what did, in fact, take place.

      I suspect that it might not reach the court and the main contractor will accept that there had been something unsatisfactory in what they did and that some refund or repair at the contractor’s expense will take place. This would not necessarily result in issues being made public.

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  2. Not one word about this on GMS , we have had Gary Robertson and Laura Maxwell speculating on how well a flatulence suppressant would work on a plane , in GMS eyes that’s more important , they should know they are full of wind themselves!.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay, I’ve had a bit of search on the CDM stuff I was trying to explain, so I have pulled some information from the CITB website (sorry its a bit lengthy, I’ve cut a fair amount out too):

    https://www.citb.co.uk/about-citb/partnerships-and-initiatives/construction-design-and-management-cdm-regulations/cdm-regulations/

    “The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) are the main set of regulations for managing the health, safety and welfare of construction projects. CDM applies to all building and construction work and includes new build, demolition, refurbishment, extensions, conversions, repair and maintenance.
    CITB has produced the industry guidance written by industry volunteers appointed via the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) with small businesses in mind.
    Each one sets out in practical terms what actions are required to deliver building and construction projects in a way that prevents injury and ill health.
    There is a Guidance Document for each of the five duty holders under CDM 2015 and an additional one for workers.”

    I know this is all to do with Health and Safety, and focuses on the actual construction phase, but it defines relationships and roles so that any faults with the design can be attributed directly to those responsible (in theory). It appears as though it is the designer’s role to ensure that a building is fit for purpose (but then, it is the Principle Designer’s role to ensure the Designer carries out their duties,, etc). Here are the main roles, briefly (the website gives more). I haven’t read any of the actual legislation, but have included the link to it in case anyone is so inclined to reading such dry material. Here we have a building purpose-built as a hospital, so any failings as to that purpose should be at the feet of – well, whoever it is! It depends if it is a design flaw or a construction flaw or an advisory flaw, and many other things. But the key thing is, if that there is any flaw at all, there should be a thorough investigation, and those responsible should be held to account. But as you can see below, the client also has responsibilities. From the website:

    > A client is an organisation or individual having a construction project carried out in connection with a business.
    The CDM regulations apply to both domestic and commercial clients. This guidance document is for commercial clients.
    A client has responsibility to make suitable arrangements for managing a project.
    This includes making sure that:
    • other duty holders are appointed
    • sufficient time and resources are allocated
    • relevant information is prepared and provided to other duty holders
    • the principal designer and principal contractor carry out their duties
    • welfare facilities are provided

    > A principal designer is appointed by the client of projects with more than one contractor.
    It can be an organisation or an individual with sufficient knowledge, experience and ability to carry out the role.
    The principal designer (PD) must be a designer and have control over the pre-construction phase of the project.
    The PD is responsible for planning, managing, monitoring and coordinating health and safety in the pre-construction phase of a project.
    This includes:
    • identifying, eliminating or controlling foreseeable risks
    • ensuring designers carry out their duties.
    • Preparing and providing relevant information to other dutyholders.
    The PD also liaises with the principal contractor to help in the planning, management and monitoring of the health and safety in the construction phase.
    The PD will usually be an organisation or, on smaller projects,they can be an individual with:
    • a technical knowledge of the construction industry, relevant to the project
    • the understanding and skills to manage and co-ordinate the pre-construction phase, including any design work carried out after construction begins.
    The PD should have the organisational capability to carry out the role, as well as the necessary design skills, knowledge and experience.

    > A designer is someone who as part of a business, prepares or modifies designs for a building, product or system relating to construction work.
    The designer’s role when preparing or modifying designs is to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may happen during construction or *maintenance and use of a building after it’s been built.*
    The designer also provides information to other members of the project team to help them fulfil their duties.

    >A principal contractor is appointed by the client to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety during the construction phase of a project when there’s more than one contractor involved.

    >A contractor is the individual or organisation doing the actual construction work.
    If you are a sole trader, self-employed worker, individual or business carrying out, managing or controlling work in the construction industry then this guidance is for you.
    Anyone who directly engages construction workers or manages construction work is a contractor.

    >A worker is an individual working for or under the control of contractors on a construction site.
    As people working for or under the control of contractors on a construction site the workers have duties as well as their employers.

    This is the actual legislation:
    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/51/contents

    Of course, once a building has been commissioned and hand-over has been done, the contractors and designers will try and wriggle out of any reparation work – I hope the health board gets satisfaction in this case though. Those big companies have large teams of lawyers though.

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