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Clearance of The Balfour Hospital - Old Site, The Orkney Islands
The Balfour Hospital serves approximately 21,500 people and is the main hospital in the Orkney archipelago, a group of 70 islands located 10 miles (16 km) off the north-eastern Caithness coast of Scotland. Only about 20 of these small islands are inhabited. The award-winning Balfour Hospital ‘new site’ remains at the heart of the Orcadian community as it is located next to the ‘old site’. It is a purpose-built facility fitted out with new equipment to provide the highest standard of care to its patients.
Any project faces a whole host of idiosyncratic hurdles. In the relocation of a healthcare institution such as this it is often the case that 2 physical sites operate simultaneously to ensure that patient services continue uninterrupted. The only caveat it that not all equipment can be transferred over to the new site along with inpatients that are receiving treatment. This means that a lot of functional equipment becomes redundant as a result of the transfer.
The expertise of the Hilditch Group was enlisted to facilitate the resale of the huge amount of unused specialist medical, commercial catering, general site and facilities equipment that was left over from the transfer. The Hilditch Group was chosen because we are the industry experts for healthcare site clearance and the re-sale of medical equipment.
Many months were spent liaising with representatives from NHS Orkney to establish project parameters and to ensure that the Hilditch Group could satisfy the health board’s needs and wants. An initial site-visit from the Hilditch Group allowed assets of value to be photographed and catalogued. From this the scope was ascertained and on these terms the project was agreed.
Selling any specialist equipment somewhere so far north is a challenge in its self, on top of the long distance there is a 90-minute ferry ride to contend with. Selling such a wide array of items could take an extremely long time to auscultate. With a brand-new hospital to run, vital capital was required for maintaining patient services and a metrological deadline swiftly looming, action was required.
We grouped similar assets into 9 auctions for ease of promotion and identification by customers. A variety of public auctions were held on-line and they finished on Friday the 17th of January 2020. These auctions followed the format of a timed online auction, where bids are taken through an on-line portal, the auction ends at a set time and the buyer with the highest bid wins. The diverse content of the auctions covered:
• Medical, Laboratory and Nursing Home Equipment – including; bath hoists, wheelchair scales, defibrillators, autoclaves, sterilising equipment, drugs refrigeration, centrifuges, blood refrigeration, bone densometers, infusion pumps, dry viewers, endoscopes, stack systems, incubators, anaesthetic machines, mobile X-rays, operating tables, operating lights and patient monitors
• Dental Equipment – including; dental suites and spittoons
• X-Ray Equipment – including; two fixed X-ray rooms
• Sterilising Equipment – including; equipment from the sterile services department
• Mortuary Equipment – including; body refrigeration, body stackers and mortuary slabs
• Commercial Catering Equipment – including; ovens, deep fat fryers, ranges, refrigerators, sinks, hot cupboards and bain-maries
• Building – including; Portakabins and large modular buildings
• Generator – including; generators, boilers and compressors
• Commercial Refrigeration – including; walk-in fridge/freezer
“It was extremely important for us to include all islanders in the auction process, as the various Balfour Hospitals through the Centuries have been an integral part of the community. In fact, a large percentage of the assets have been redistributed amongst the islands.” Neill Saint, Senior Auctioneer at the Hilditch Group.
Once confirmation was obtained from the Balfour Hospital to proceed the Hilditch Group; decommissioned the equipment, advertised, held the auctions and equipment was removed within 3 months. This time frame could have been a lot shorter if Christmas and bad weather had not intervened.

All assets were stored at the Orkney old site until the auction process was complete. 75 lots were sold from the Orkney site making an initial £52,205, minus a nominal commission for the Hilditch Group services, for the health board to reinvest back into patient services.

From the Hilditch Group’s diverse range of promotion there was a huge interest in all of the redundant assets, however, as the Orkney Islands are extremely remote many buyers were reluctant to travel such distances to collect the items. Therefore, the remaining unsold lots were transported in the Hilditch Group’s own lorries their warehouses in Wiltshire to be re-entered into auction to ensure the sale of all Balfour hospital equipment.
“I have completed around 30 on-site projects for the Hilditch Group during my time working here, however, the logistical organisation required for the project on the Orkney islands was my toughest challenge to date. As tough as it was, I have a great feeling of pride in seeing the project through from start to finish, knowing the customer has got what they wanted and I know that it was a job well done.” Project Manager Danny O’Brien. Transport manager for the Hilditch Group’s fleet of company vehicles and main driver for the Orkney Islands project, Jamie Howes reminisces “Phew, that was a ‘rather’ long drive.”
The sale of equipment from the Orkney islands certainly was an interesting project, not just from the logistic side of things, but from a socio-economic standpoint as well. Items that would normally fly off the shelves in Southern United Kingdom and mainland Europe didn’t meet their reserves, however, items that usually are hard to shift saw increased bidder numbers. The logical assumption for this is that the location played a huge part in the anomalous bidding patterns. Our expert intuition means that the Orcadians’ wants have been sated and local interest in generators, modular buildings and commercial catering equipment has been fulfilled. With a rather generalised notion I can just picture a remote island workshop being powered consistently throughout the dark winter months thanks to the Hilditch Group.

“There is no doubt that without the assistance from the Hilditch Group’s efficient resale and project management process there would still be a large quantity of redundant equipment located in the Balfour Hospital old site. The Hilditch Group have saved us a huge amount of the Board’s time and man power by undertaking the inventory and advising on reasonable prices for charging. This expertise and investment of time was of significant value to the Board. The revenue generated from the sales will be invested back into patient service delivery in Orkney. The Hilditch Group’s careful consideration of the Orkney geographical idiosyncrasies has ensured that the local community has benefitted from the sale and also ensured that unnecessary haulage of equipment did not take place across a large distance adding to an already large carbon footprint and reduce the profit margin.” Teresa Marwick, Estates Officer NHS Orkney.