Optimum Group Services adopts innovative approach at secure mental health unit


Company undertakes full mechanical planned preventative maintenance and reactive works at John Howard Centre in east London

Optimum Group Services (Optimum) has been appointed to undertake full mechanical planned preventative maintenance (PPM) and reactive works at the John Howard Centre, a Category B secure mental health unit in east London.

The John Howard Centre houses male and female clients mainly from referrals from the Home Office or Local Courts. The site comprises six buildings within a secure 5.2m perimeter fence. Given the sensitive and high-risk nature of this facility, Optimum is adopting an innovative approach to these works.

Within the agreed contract, Optimum will be responsible for mechanical, reactive and statutory maintenance and water hygiene management, delivered by a dedicated team of resident engineers. This service will be backed up by a mobile support team.

The John Howard Centre originally put this contract out for tender as a straightforward mobile service. However, as part of its innovation strategy, Optimum offered a resident engineer to complement the mobile service option. The benefits of this arrangement include:

  • All contracted engineers are adequately trained and experienced to work within this type of environment. For example, all engineers have received NHS approved breakaway training on site
  • No requirement of a security escort for engineers
  • Improvements to response times for reactive works
  • Cost reduction for the NHS

Optimum has implemented a full computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) system on site that is used to monitor all PPM and reactive works to ensure compliance and response times. In addition, the company provides a full 24-hour managed helpdesk facility for the East London NHS Foundation Trust, with trained operators handling calls from all parts of the trust and engaging the correct supplier or sub-contractor to attend the site where required.

In a similar environment, Optimum has also been appointed to replace the cooling system at Tower Hamlets Centre for Mental Health, another secure unit comprising 117 bedrooms, based within Mile End Hospital. In this £1.4m project, works were undertaken while the centre was still occupied by patients. Medical staff at the unit required constant access to seclusion rooms and access through security-controlled doors throughout the works. A process of evacuating individual wards and re-distributing patients around the unit was employed with strict security measures in place. This phased approach meant that installation could take place in unoccupied wards without incurring unit closures.

“Optimum adapts its FM approach to every contract and this is particularly the case in such high-risk units. We respect the need for continuity of service delivery for the medical staff and patients and endeavour to limit disruption wherever possible. We also place a strong emphasis on training for our engineers working in this type of environment in order to minimise potential threatening situations.” said Ben Chapman-Watts, NHS account manager at Optimum.

“We have been hugely impressed with the sensitivity and respect demonstrated by the Optimum engineers working on site,” said John Hill, director of estates at East London NHS Foundation Trust.

“Working in a secure mental health unit can be a challenging environment even for trained NHS staff. By introducing a resident engineer, we feel confident that the FM work carried out by Optimum will follow our security policies without repeated briefings from us, saving our staff precious time to dedicate to patient care.”

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