• Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust in court battle with companies 
  • Trust has experienced a number of leaks in hospital where patients received critical care
  • More than £1m sought in damages

A hospital trust has embarked on a legal battle against four construction and engineering companies to recover more than £1m after experiencing years of leaks.

Such were the problems with a new heating system at Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust that – at one point – a series of leaks forced staff to “wade through flooded areas” to get to parts of the hospital, according to court documents.

In 2007 the trust decided to replace its main steam boiler system with a new system, which are considered more efficient and environmentally friendly.

The trust employed multinational company WSP to design the project, and mechanics firm Munro was hired to carry out the work.

The project was completed in January 2011, but the trust began to experience leaks – some of which were in operating theatres, wards, and in the emergency and intensive care departments.

According to the trust, the leaks were caused by “inadequate pipework supports” installed during the work to change the boilers.

Munro carried out further work on the system during 2011 and 2012, but the leaks continued and by January 2013 the trust had “lost trust” in WSP and Munro.

Later in 2013 the trust hired the London based construction and property consultancy company Ingleton Wood to design the necessary remedial work.

A fourth company, MEH, was hired to carry out the work, but upon completion – water started to spray from a rupture in one of the pipes.

After three further leaks the trust decided to rent temporary oil powered boilers to heat the parts of the hospital supplied by the failed pipework between 2014 and 2015.

Two further consultancies were commissioned by the trust to examine the work, with both concluding that the pipework was inadequate.

The trust subsequently hired another construction company, Capri, to carry out the remedial work.

As of June 2017, the trust has paid £457,000 to Capri for the work, but it will cost £630,300 to complete it – taking the total cost to nearly £1.1m.

The trust has taken WSP, Munro, Ingleton Wood, and MEH to the Technology and Construction Court over project.

As well as the money paid to Capri, the trust is claiming the £230,000 from all the defendants, and unspecified amounts for damages, interest, and costs.

The four companies deny liability.

Ron Theobald, managing director of MEH, told HSJ the company’s work had been carried out in accordance with the drawings and specification provided by Ingleton Wood.

He said the trust had worsened the condition of the pipes by wedging pieces of timber between the duct walls and pipework in a bid to stop the leaks, and accused the trust of passing the blame onto his company.

None of the other companies provided a response to HSJ.

John Henry, the trust’s director of estates and facilities, said the trust could not comment while litigation is ongoing.