New Royal Preston Hospital: this is when building work will begin and what will happen to the old one in the meantime
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Kevin McGee, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, revealed the start date for construction during the organisation’s first board meeting since it emerged that a bid to build an entirely new facility for the city had been successful.
It was announced last month that the government had agreed to back the preferred option of health service bosses in Lancashire and South Cumbria to develop brand new hospitals for both Preston and Lancaster, rather than the cheaper alternative of refurbishing one or both of the existing estates.
However, it also emerged that the region would be one of eight on the government’s promised list of 40 ‘new hospitals’ which would see its plans delivered at some point after 2030, the year which had previously been the expected completion date for the facilities.
As the Lancashire Post revealed at the time, the window for the opening date of the hospitals in Central and North Lancashire was anticipated to slip to between 2030 and 2035 as a result.
However, Mr. McGee told board members that, for the Royal Preston, the “physical build” will not even start until 2030” – but he stressed that “enabling work” will begin beforehand, once a suitable site has been secured. It was for that reason, he said, that the actual construction period will be “relatively short”.
The government has also said that the modular design of its new hospitals will speed up the process of building them .
However, the board meeting heard concern about what a potential decade-long wait for a new Royal Preston would mean for the crumbling condition of much of the current Sharoe Green Lane site. A key part of the pitch for a new Royal Preston was the £157m maintenance backlog that has built up across the existing one.
Non–executive director Jim Whitaker said that the catalogue of outstanding issues was “increasing year-on-year” and warned that “the state of the estate” was a source of staff discontent.
Kevin McGee said that the current hospital – largely built between the mid-1970s and early 1980s – would continue to receive investment “in an appropriate way”, highlighting recently received capital funding that will see improvements made to the so-called “front door” in A&E. But he warned of the eventual need to address the question of “just how much do we invest?”
“We will continue to do the best we possibly can with the backlog maintenance, but of course there [are] going to be choices…as we get closer to that 2030 date,” the trust chief said, adding that Chorley Hospital had seen – and would continue to see – significant investment.
Meanwhile, in response to a plea from another non-executive board member, Tim Watkinson, for the trust to press ahead with reforms to how it delivers services for patients and not just “wait for new stuff”, LTH chief medical officer Dr. Gerry Skailes said that the promise of a new building made it even more vital to reduce the number of people needing care in the hospital itself.
“The assumptions for the new hospital – in terms of the size and the build – are predicated on us getting the [patient] pathways right.
“Particularly, [that means]…supporting people who don’t require an acute hospital admission in the community in a different way, [which is] close to home, where it is safe and possible to do so.
“We [also] need to accelerate the work around outpatient transformation so that, again, we are not asking people to come up to the hospital when there is no real benefit in [that].
“[The new hospital announcement] will now give us a real impetus to make sure that we completely nail [that aim] before we move in and not after,” Dr. Skailes added.