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Project milestone marked with a topping out ceremony at Western Community Hospital.

A topping out ceremony took place to mark the end of the second phase in the construction project to build a new rehabilitation unit at the Western Community Hospital in Southampton.

As part of the ceremony, Solent NHS Trust Chief Executive Andrew Strevens laid the last shovel of concrete and all attendees were invited to sign a column as a symbol of good luck for the building.

A collection of over 30 people, including the construction team, project management team, architects, clinical staff and Trust leaders, gathered for a look around parts of the new building.

Reaching the end of the project’s second phase means that the construction of the building’s structure – its foundations, stairwells, columns and floors and roof – are complete. In early September, the external walls will be erected and internal fitting will begin.

The £21m project will bring 50 beds to the hospital, bringing together staff from two existing wards at the Royal South Hants Hospital into a unit where teams can provide specialist rehabilitation care in a high-quality therapeutic environment. The new unit is due to open in summer 2024.

A topping out ceremony is a tradition in construction that goes back centuries and originated in Scandanavia, where trees were fixed to the top of a building structure and messages of good luck were written on beams as blessings. Today, it is seen as a landmark in the project to mark the completion of the structural element of the building and the move to the external finishes and internal fitting, bringing the project team together to observe the progress made to date.

Andrew Strevens said: “It is fantastic to get to this stage. I have been working on this project for many years and I’m very grateful to everyone for all their hard work so far. To see the progress from detailed planning to demolition and then the rapid rise of this building has been incredible. It’s been a true team effort involving the Solent estates and clinical teams, and our colleagues at Brymor.

“For our patients and staff to have a state-of-the-art facility for providing rehabilitation services in Southampton is just brilliant and I am excited to see the finished building next summer.”

Brymor Managing Director Mark Dyer commented: “We are delighted to have welcomed valued guests and members of the whole project team to our site to celebrate the completion of the structural concrete frame.

“Achieving this fantastic milestone is a testament to the strong relationship and collaborative approach adopted by all involved. Excellent open, transparent, and honest communication has allowed us to align our approach with the day to day needs of the hospital to ensure continuity of the excellent healthcare provided to the local community remains a priority.

“This rehabilitation unit scheme is the latest of a number of projects Solent NHS Trust have entrusted Brymor to deliver. We are both delighted and proud to continue our longstanding relationship by being their delivery partner on this iconic scheme.”