Jersey Hospital – Facing the Facts

06 September 2021

Lindsay Ash writes about the delivery of the new hospital. The text is taken from his recent article in St Clement’s parish magazine.

As regular readers will know, I have tried to address the major issues in the magazine and one I would like to address now is the hospital. There is still a lot of talk around it, so here is my version together with certain facts.

When I first sat on the POG (Political Oversight Group), I was very keen that we accepted a few FACTS before we moved forward.

Firstly, that because of all that had gone before us, the site we selected would be unpopular, as everyone now had their particular favourite – be it People’s Park, Warwick Farm, St Saviour’s Hospital or indeed possibly the Écréhous. I stressed we could not win. But our job was to find a site using the best methodology and then make sure a hospital is finally delivered.

Secondly, the biggest financial risk to this project was that we went all the way round again and the States rejected it and we had lost further millions of pounds without a spade placed in the ground. This to my mind then, as it is now, would be quite unacceptable.

Thirdly, that for all the noise that would be generated by some, the vast majority of Island residents have had enough and want this long running saga ended as soon as possible and a hospital finally delivered. In short …please get it done!

Many of you will remember a Harry Enfield character that used to have the catch phrase: “You don’t want to do it like that! You want to do it like this”. Well, that character is still flourishing with certain (albeit well meaning) people in the letters’ column of the JEP. Let me now address the issue of these well-meaning correspondents by posing a question to you all….

Imagine you, your child or a parent were ill and went to see one of the many excellent consultants – Dr Ng for Gastroenterology, Dr Mitchell for a heart problem or perhaps Dr Spiteri regarding eyesight. After they have given you their opinion, be it that there was a hiatus hernia, a need for a stent or a detached retina, would you listen to their advice and say: “Thank you very much doctor. Where do we go from here?”. Or would you say: “Thank you doctor, I am just going to write to the JEP to see if their readers think you are right”.

I feel most know the answer that they would give, and it’s the correct answer. This is to trust people who have built hospitals around the world, to trust the vascular surgeon from Oxford University, to trust the Jersey Hospital consultants with whom he liaised and to trust the Citizens’ Panel, rather than to listen to a well-meaning group whom I am afraid between them cannot even agree on the best site.

There then comes the matter of cost. Why is our hospital going to cost so much more than others? The answer is it isn’t. It will of course be more than it should have been if the decision had been taken ten years ago.

But it will be less than it will be if those trying to scupper or delay the project succeed and we wait another four years to commence it, something I pray will not happen.

There are some States members who are experts in nearly every field (or more accurately, believe they are).  I am not one of them. I ask the questions and look for the answers. One question was how do we know we are not paying too much?

The process of ensuring value for money at the early stages of any project is carried out by undertaking a benchmarking study. This study compares the proposed construction cost elements which exclude such items as site specific matters, contingency and client costs. In doing so, it then allows a like-for-like assessment with other similar hospital projects.

The study then adjusts these like-for-like costs to take account of the different dates when the hospitals were/are being built. This ensures that we have allowed for the impact of inflation and location differences to accommodate local market forces to create a common data set for comparison purposes.

Having undertaken this work, we have determined that the current cost per square metre for the Overdale project is £6,155. This cost has been subject to a detailed benchmarked study against other hospital schemes by both our cost advisors and the Government of Jersey Scrutiny Panel advisors and has been confirmed as good value for money by both sets of professional advisors.

Indeed, the Scrutiny Panel advisors stated in the report S.R.9/2020 on page 64 that: “The benchmark cost for this type of hospital to be in the range £5,500 to £6,500 per square metre. This excludes any premium for building in Jersey versus the mainland”.

Our cost of £6,155 per square metre does include Jersey premium, so therefore we can be confident that we are obtaining a value for money delivery solution.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that UK hospitals are part of a wider network of hospitals on the mainland which operates as a collective set of hospitals to deliver the requirements of the local community’s model of care. It therefore, cannot be fairly compared with the new hospital we are building in Jersey.

I would stress that’s where the costs stand now and could change with delays, construction problems etc., although I would hope any increases will be mitigated as much as possible.

I believe we have to draw a line under the wasted expenditure of the previous years. Yes, it may not be an easy pill to swallow as it could have been settled years ago. But let me point to three other decisions that were equally difficult. Flooding Queen’s Valley with over 20,000 signatures on a petition to stop it, introducing GST where there were protests in the Royal square and introducing Old Aged Pensions in the 1950s when a coffin was paraded with the name of the States member introducing it printed on the side. Where would we be now for water, financial reserves or older islanders’ finances if people hadn’t had the courage to vote these through?

There are people who have shown that courage this time with the hospital. I believe as long as they hold their nerve, this will be a facility that all Islanders will value for many years to come.

Lindsay Ash

Deputy St Clement
Assistant Treasury Minister