Major upgrade for two vital units that keep patients flowing through Royal Preston Hospital

Two key units that support the urgent and emergency care service at the Royal Preston Hospital are getting a £15m upgrade.
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A cash injection to boost NHS capacity, which was announced by the government on Tuesday, is being used to overhaul the surgical and medical assessment facilities at the Fulwood site.

The Lancashire Post understands that work is already under way on the schemes, because the trust that runs the hospital had been given advance notice that it had been successful in a bid it had made for the money before it was announced this week as part of a wider £250m investment across England.

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The funding boost will see the transformation of what are currently largely makeshift areas of the hospital, with the medical assessment unit (MAU) being expanded and the surgical assessment unit (SAU) housing more specialties under one roof.

The Royal Preston has received £15m as part of the government's urgent and emergency care recovery planThe Royal Preston has received £15m as part of the government's urgent and emergency care recovery plan
The Royal Preston has received £15m as part of the government's urgent and emergency care recovery plan

Papers presented to a board meeting of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) earlier this month noted that the two facilities were not meeting demand.

The concept behind both units is that they receive patients from A&E, in order to maintain the flow of individuals through the system and prevent a backlog in the emergency department.

Patients are admitted to the MAU for the assessment and treatment of a range of acute medical, oncology, renal and neurology problems being transferred to other wards or discharged back home.

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Meanwhile, the SAU cares for patients with potential surgical needs under six specialities - general surgery, vascular, orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat, plastics and urology.

Faith Button, LTH chief operating officer, said the trust was “delighted” with the extra funding.

"Aiming to be complete by July 2024, the planned expansion will help to right-size existing facilities to enhance capacity, improve pathways and increase direct patient access.

"Having the extra space will provide a much more comfortable environment for patients and staff whilst allowing us to see patients more efficiently, reducing waiting times and length of stay."

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There is a £157m maintenance backlog at the Royal Preston and a question mark hangs over how that will be managed over the next decade ahead of the opening of a replacement hospital in South Ribble in the early-mid 2030s.

Tricia Whiteside, chair of LTH’s finance and performance committee, outlined the challenge of maintaining health and safety while ensuring that equipment is “current…and well-maintained”.

“[The latter] meant that some of our other areas of estate investment were having to be deprioritised,” she explained.

The board heard that the resultant increased risk had been referred to the trust’s safety and quality committee “to provide assurance” that mitigations were in place.

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