Plans have been unveiled for a new ‘health hub’ in the city centre, to take the pressure off the city’s hospital.
The plans are at the early stages, but it is envisioned that the health hub would offer some of the outpatient services currently run from Royal Preston Hospital (RPH).
The building would also offer some GP services, and is set to be sited in council-owned land in the city centre.
RPH’s current site in Sharoe Green Lane is crowded, and struggles for space for both services and parking.
Last year, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust revealed that one option to deal with the issue was the creation of a new ‘super hospital’ to serve both Preston and Chorley on land near the M6.
The council-owned land to the rear of Princes Buildings has been identified as a potential site.
However the project has since stalled.
Now Preston City Council has announced proposals for the health hub in its annual round-up report, Achieving Preston’s Priorities.
The document states: “Plans to develop a city centre ‘Health Hub’ are in the early stages of development following discussions between the Royal Preston Hospital, the City Council, the Chorley and South Ribble, and Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS Property Services.
“The council-owned land to the rear of Princes Buildings has been identified as a potential site.
“The scheme would see out-patient services from RPH delivered in a community setting along with relocated GP practices, offices and new housing.”
At this stage is not clear exactly which outpatient services would be offered at the hub, nor whether it would be staffed by hospital staff or external providers.
The council report added: “The City Council is looking to put together a funding package with partners to explore options for its development and delivery within the framework of the One Public Estate programme with the Local Government Association and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
“The project has received funding from Round 6 of the One Public Estate programme to prepare an outline business case for the project – this is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2018 and will inform the next steps of development and the anticipated approach to its (capital) funding.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust said: “The local health economy is working together to consider how services can be delivered closer to home in the Preston area.
“At this stage no final decisions around the services within a hub, or its location have been made.
“Discussions and planning will continue over the coming months, bringing together a range of organisations from across the health and care system to ensure patients in central Lancashire receive a high level of care in a setting that is most appropriate for their needs.”
Will the NHS be getting more funding?
Over the weekend, Theresa May announced a package of new funding for the NHS.
The Prime Minister has promised an extra £20bn annual real-terms NHS funding increase by 2023-24.
It was initially stated that the money would come from a ‘Brexit dividend’, but economists including the Institute for Fiscal Studies have cast doubt on whether leaving the EU would result in a cash dividend.
It was later stated that tax rises could be the source of extra funding for the NHS.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust is responsible for both Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
Both hospitals have been struggling with staffing and capacity in recent months, with patients reporting long waits, especially in A&E.
In April 2016, Chorley’s A&E unit closed down, because the Trust said it could not find enough staff to safely run the unit.
It later reopened on a 12-hour basis, but locals are still campaigning for the reinstatement of the full 24/7 service.
The reduced service has also had a knock-on effect on services at Royal Preston Hospital, with patients reporting long waits in A&E, and paramedics forced to queue for hours to hand over their patients.
Royal Preston Hospital is also beginning to outgrow its current site, with severe pressure on space and on car parking.