Ward Hadaway leads pioneering UK scheme to success | 13 December 07

LAW firm Ward Hadaway has helped 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 took 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 on Teesside.

The project was approved and reached successful financial close this week, paving the way for a new 312-bed mental health facility to be built next to the current hospital in Marton Road in Middlesbrough.

ABC, which stands for Appointment Preferred Bidder 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 and to speed up the development of new facilities.

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 was picked as the preferred bidder.

The scheme was also a pilot for the Treasury’s Senior Debt Funding Competition, whereby banks are invited to bid to fund the project after it is approved and the preferred bidder – in this case John Laing - appointed.

Previously, banks have been involved earlier in the process via their relationship with a particular PFI provider.

Melanie Pears, head of public sector at Ward Hadaway, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have advised Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust on this truly pioneering scheme.

“Taking the £74m project to a successful financial close in such a relatively short time is very satisfying and hopefully the success of this pilot scheme will pave the way for future public/private partnership schemes.

“As well as getting value for money for the public purse, this project will also deliver much-improved facilities for the people of Middlesbrough and Stockton.”

Peter Coates CBE, Director of Finance and Investment at the Department of Health, said: “The facts speak for themselves when you consider this is a scheme that has been just over two years in procurement and just over six months from approval of preferred bidder this May to financial close today.

“It is a testament to our new process and the parties involved who have worked well together. Congratulations to them.”

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust intends to replace 102-year-old St Luke’s with a new 312-bed, 26,700 sq metres hospital.

The facility 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. Earlier this year, 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.