Ward Hadaway helps lead way on new PFI scheme | 15 July 07

Law firm Ward Hadaway is helping to lead the way on a new generation of public/private partnership projects designed to get the best deal for taxpayers.

The Newcastle-based firm is taking a key role on the largest ‘ABC’-approved project in the UK to date, advising Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust on a £74m scheme to replace St Luke’s Hospital in Middlesbrough.

ABC, which stands for Appointment Business Case, aims to take out more of the uncertainty and risk out of public/private partnership projects for bodies such as NHS Trusts and local authorities at an early stage in the process.

Instead of appointing a company as a preferred bidder and then working out the nuts and bolts of the project, ABC sees most of the details of the deal worked out and agreed upon by the public sector bodies and shortlisted bidders before a final preferred bidder is chosen.

In the case of the £74m St Luke’s scheme, John Laing Social Infrastructure Ltd has been picked as the preferred bidder to build a 312-bed mental health facility adjacent to the current hospital in Marton Road in Middlesbrough.

John Laing will now run a post-preferred bidder funding competition, asking banks and other financial institutions to provide the most competitive package to finance the scheme. This is another unique aspect of this scheme.

Melanie Pears, head of public sector at Ward Hadaway, said: “We were delighted to be chosen by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust to advise on this pioneering project, which aims to provide a template for future public/private partnership schemes. It is a real sign of the confidence the Trust has in Ward Hadaway’s ability to deliver on such a groundbreaking scheme.

“The project has involved a lot of detailed and complex negotiations between the Strategic Health Authority, the Department of Health and a number of funders and advisors to get to the stage we are at now.

“Hopefully, this will all secure better value for money for the public purse as well as much-improved facilities for the people of the North-East.”

John Ord, the Associate Project Director on behalf of the Trust, said: “Making such good progress with the project, while at the same time delivering the intent and benefit of the new approvals process and funding competition, has been challenging and also very rewarding.

“It is very much a team effort, and Ward Hadaway add considerable skill and value to support the team. We approach the next stages of the project with the same enthusiasm and confidence in the teams ability to deliver.”

The trust intends to replace its 102-year-old hospital St Luke’s with a new 312 bed hospital, which has a floor area of 26,700 sq metres, will have a wide range of accommodation appropriate to the diverse mental health and learning disability services to be provided within it.

The buildings will be light and airy with plenty of gardens and outdoor areas, and provide shared activity space giving patients places in which to be cared for, similar to those that might be found in the community.

All the living accommodation will be at ground level, contributing to the hospital’s domestic scale. The development is the cornerstone of the trust’s Ad>ance modernisation programme of service improvements.

The St Luke’s scheme is the latest in a series of successes for Ward Hadaway in the public sector.

Earlier this year, the firm was jointly appointed to provide external legal services for five local authorities on Teesside – Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland councils.

Ward Hadaway is now providing expert legal advice on more than £2bn worth of projects within the public sector.

The firm is also a leading player in the healthcare arena. Last month, it was appointed as external legal services provider for the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and now advises more Acute NHS Trusts in the North than any of its competitors.