As a venue for people to receive their COVID jabs, it is certainly one of the more unusual.

The transformation of Basingstoke Fire Station by Solent NHS Estates into a large-scale vaccination centre captured the hearts of the press and public alike.

A spotlight was shone on the building when it opened its doors to its first patients at the start of February 2021.

Continuing to serve as a working fire station, and with firefighters themselves trained as vaccinators, it was unrecognisable from its normal role, with long lines of vaccination bays installed along both sides of the main hall.

The opening was the culmination of intense planning by specialists within our Estates team, working alongside colleagues from across Solent NHS Trust and numerous partner agencies.

From an initial site visit to the vaccine arriving and patients being booked in, the entire process took just seven weeks.

But despite the challenging timeframe, no stone was left unturned.

From medical supplies and equipment to cleaning, signage, security and parking, every area was carefully co-ordinated with care and compassion.

As members of the public arrived for their first jabs, everything was in place to ensure the process ran like clockwork.

Behind the scenes, our Estates teams had spent hours sourcing the right type of medical fridge in which to store the vaccine, identifying the best place for staff to rest and countless other issues in between.

Clinical teams had been familiarised with the facilities, marshals and other volunteers fully briefed, IT systems tested and everything checked and double checked ready for the go-live.

Mark Young, Associate Director of Estates Transformation, said: “We have been privileged to play a small but important part in the nation’s efforts to fight this global pandemic.

“Creating the vaccination centres to such tight timescales would never been possible without the skill and determination of our small but close-knit Estates team, who worked tirelessly from start to finish. I feel immensely proud of everyone involved.”

The first large-scale vaccination centre created by Solent NHS Estates was in NHS offices at Oakley Road, Southampton, and opened in early January 2021.

Converting a conference room, IT training suite and various ground-floor office spaces, one “pod” was opened to vaccinate local NHS staff before a second came online to treat, initially, the eldest and most vulnerable members of the public.

It was a slick and successful transformation, which quickly led to the team being asked to repeat the process in Portsmouth, Basingstoke and on the Isle of Wight, as well as helping to set up centres at the Royal South Hants Hospital and the Adelaide Health Centre.

On the same day that our Basingstoke vaccination centre opened its doors, Solent NHS Estates unveiled others at Hamble House, St James’ Hospital, Portsmouth, and at The Riverside Centre in Newport on the Isle of Wight.

Each venue had its own unique set of circumstances and challenges – and bespoke plans had to be drawn up and actioned meticulously to ensure things went smoothly at each centre.

Geoff Lewis, Estates Programme Manager, had to rapidly mobilise the estates operational team and co-ordinated IT, cleaning, waste, catering, fire safety and security, alongside external agencies such as the highways department.

Plans were continually adjusted and shared as new information emerged.

For Estates Architect and Senior Project Manager Mark Maffey, who sketched out all the vaccination centre plans, it was a labour of love.

The team joked that Mark created a new centre from his desk at home every Sunday afternoon – but it wasn’t far from the truth, with all four venues needing to be up and running within a matter of weeks.

Mark said: “In the Estates world, we are used to following certain time-consuming procedures and processes but on this occasion what would normally have taken months was condensed down into a matter of weeks.

“We have an exceptional team made up of very talented people who have happily gone the extra mile to ensure these vaccination centres are the best they possibly can be.

“This was working at a whole new pace, but it has been exceptionally rewarding and we all felt quite emotional when we saw the first patients receiving their jabs.

“Transforming healthcare environments is what we do – but this project has taken things to a whole new level.”

Angela Anderson, Associate Nurse Director at Solent NHS Trust, said: “Our Estates team have delivered four large-scale vaccination centres way beyond expectations; their passion and attention to detail has been second to none.

“I think it will take a little time for us to reflect and realise quite what has been achieved here but the immediate response from the public at all four centres has been incredible.”

Back to projects