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Revealed: The top team driving the national hospitals programme

Published on: 27 Jun 2022

Documents setting out the New Hospital Plan’s internal structure and staff roles show how the programme is organised and run. 

The NHP was officially launched in October 2020 under the leadership of Natalie Forrest, a former chief executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust and director at the Royal Free London Foundation Trust.

Its task is to deliver 48 hospital building projects by 2030, of which 40 are described by the government as “new hospitals” – however this definition includes expanded units, hospital wings and specialist centres.

In total, there are around 170 staff cited as working on the programme — according to the documents obtained by HSJ.

The executive and senior leadership team structure comprises Ms Forrest (senior responsible officer), former Ministry of Defence director Morag Stuart (chief programme officer) and five other directors.

These five directors are:

  • Saurabh Bhandari (programme delivery director);
  • Peter O’Dowd (programme development director);
  • Daniel Hancock (finance director);
  • Josie Rudman (transformation director); and
  • Emma-Jane Houghton (commercial director).

Only Ms Rudman has worked in the NHS, as chief nurse at Royal Papworth Hospital FT. Since autumn 2020 she has also worked for the Department of Health and Social Care, where she was chief nurse adviser and a director of operational capacity.

Two of the directors, Ms Houghton and Mr Bhandari, have both worked for engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald in the past. The firm was last year awarded a £7.5m contract to become NHP’s interim delivery partner during 2021-22.

According to LinkedIn, Mr Bhandari worked for Mott MacDonald for more than eight years until March this year, after which he joined NHP.

Ms Houghton worked for the firm between 2003 and 2011, according to her LinkedIn page – and she has also spent five years as a director at KPMG.

Mr O’Dowd, who holds a senior role at infrastructure advisory company The Nichols Group, joined NHP after being commissioned by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority as part of a restructure of NHP’s leadership in autumn 2021.

The IPA has previously raised concerns about NHP’s progress and currently rates the programme as “amber”, which means successful delivery is “feasible” but “significant issues already exist”.

Mr Hancock previously worked for the Home Office, where he spent nearly nine years working in the financial department.

The five directors each oversee several different divisions in NHP, which include design, digital, analytics, workforce, policy, cost management, transformation, estates and FM, innovation, market engagement, procurement, clinical and contract management.

These divisions are all headed up by leaders who have been appointed from a range of backgrounds.

Leaders with an NHS background include Jonathan Ferry (lead for the second cohort of hospitals) and Martin Rooney (sponsorship), both of whom worked for NHS England prior to NHP, and Anika Giannasi (Transformation projects) – who has worked for NHSE, University Hospitals of Leicester Trust and West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group.

Several of the other divisional leaders have worked for HS2 and Crossrail, while the design division’s chief Michael Severn joined NHP after senior jobs at construction firms Kier and Morgan Sindall.

Other directors have joined from government departments, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Education, and the Cabinet Office.

This month NHP appointed Caroline Pallister as its interim head of procurement and commercial strategy. She has previously held procurement roles for Transport for London and the Department for Transport, and her appointment comes at a time when NHP is seeking to get its national business case approved by the Treasury so that the allocated capital for prioritised projects can be released.

HSJ asked NHP what its operating budget for 2022-23 was, whether it was planning to recruit more staff, and how many of the 170-odd staff are working full-time on the programme — but NHP refused to comment. 

Last month HSJ revealed several NHS trusts, whose major rebuilds were initially prioritised, are growing increasingly worried their schemes will be delayed after receiving less-than-needed funding for crucial planning work this year.

Last year it emerged NHP would prioritise completing eight previously approved projects and ten smaller-scale schemes ahead of the larger rebuilds which are now slated for the latter half of this decade.

Around 100-odd trusts are waiting to find out if their submitted capital bid has been accepted into a cohort of eight final schemes which have a target delivery date of 2030.