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New hospital to replace Royal Preston ‘highly likely to be in South Ribble’

Posted on - 28th May, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Fulwood, Health, Politics, Preston News, Sharoe Green, South Ribble News
Royal Preston Hospital car park
Royal Preston Hospital

Preston is to get a brand new hospital – but it could be at least a decade away from being built.

Unexpected confirmation of the new facilities to replace the Royal Preston Hospital and Royal Lancaster Infirmary – on new sites elsewhere – came in the wake of confusion following a government announcement outlining the next steps for its nationwide New Hospitals Programme.

Regional NHS leaders last year made an ambitious bid for the cash needed to fund two state-of-the-art centres serving both cities.

Read more: Lancashire super hospital plan scrapped

That was the preferred option championed on a shortlist of four possibilities that was finalised last September – almost two years after the Preston and Lancaster sites were named as one of the 40 “new hospital” schemes that the government had pledged to build by 2030.

In an announcement in the Commons on Thursday afternoon, health secretary Steve Barclay declared that all of the previously-announced projects would proceed – but he identified the Lancashire and South Cumbria region’s proposal as one of eight whose completion date would be pushed back beyond the end of this decade.

He did not specifically state whether the government backed the blueprint for two new hospitals or the trio of other options that were put on the table by local NHS chiefs as a cheaper plan B – namely, the partial rebuilds of both sites or a new hospital for either Preston or Lancaster and the extensive refurbishment of the other.

Read more: Royal Preston Hospital restaurant gets a major makeover

However, Mr. Barclay did make reference to plans to “reconfigure services across two trusts” and, with a nod to Commons Speaker and Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle – who was not in the chamber at the time – said that “one of those sites…is expected to be near Chorley”.

That strongly suggested that the Royal Preston, at least, was in line for a new build and – after what the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands was a hastily arranged meeting of regional NHS leaders and local hospital trust bosses – the Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme went public with the fact that the green light had been given to rebuild both the Royal Preston and Royal Lancaster.

A search for land within a 10-mile radius of the exiting Preston and Lancaster hospitals has been ongoing since last year. The LDRS can reveal that the focus for the new Royal Preston has been on finding a location to the south of its current Sharoe Green Lane home.

One or more suitable site options for each city will be included for public consideration as part of the formal consultation that will be required before the building of the two new hospitals – deemed to be a major change to services – could be finally signed off.

There is no confirmed timeframe for that process, but there is less urgency to it now that the new facilities are not expected to be welcoming their first patients until the 2030s.

Read more: Campaign to save hub helping Preston NHS staff with psychological impact of COVID-19

While the health secretary did not specify how long into the next decade it would be before schemes like that for Lancashire and South Cumbria were completed, the LDRS understands that the window is expected to be between 2030-2035. He said that work on the delayed projects would now begin “over the next two years”.

“But they will be part of a rolling programme where not all work will be completed by 2030,” Mr. Barclay added.

The hold-up is a result of five other hospitals being drawn into the programme – and prioritised for complete rebuilds – after they were deemed to be in a dangerous condition as a result of the type of concrete used to construct them, which puts elements of the structures at risk of collapse after the end of the material’s lifespan.

Meanwhile, Steve Barclay’s comments about reconfiguration in Lancashire appeared to hint at a shake-up of services at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, if the new Royal Preston were to be built closer to the district facility than it is now.

However, Jerry Hawker – senior responsible officer for the Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme – stressed to the LDRS that “no decisions on reconfigurations [have been taken] yet”.

“But clearly, as we progress towards the new build, we will be engaging with the public and with our staff as to the best configuration of services given [a new Royal Preston],” Mr. Hawker added.

Jerry Hawker is responsible for the new hospitals programme

Back in January 2020, after several years of false starts, a public consultation was about to be launched into the future of Chorley Hospital. The shortlist of options that was due to be put to the public was based on the replacement of the part-time A&E facility with some version of an urgent care centre, after the emergency department was branded unviable. The Euxton Lane site was slated to become a ringfenced unit for pre-planned surgery.

However, the pandemic put the brakes on the process and, in February 2021, then health secretary Matt Hancock ordered that it be scrapped altogether until a new consultation option was included that would have allowed for the retention of the A&E.

The need for wholly new hospitals for both Preston and Lancaster was hammered home in a “case for change” document designed to persuade the government to open its chequebook to fund them. That paper revealed a litany of issues facing both of the existing sites which made the futures of each perilous.

It warned that the majority of the facilities at the Royal Preston were experiencing “serious dilapidation”, with buildings and, consequently, services at risk of failure.

The Preston and Lancaster facilities also have a maintenance backlog of £157m and £88m respectively – although much of that is still likely to need attention now that it will be so long until the replacement buildings come on stream.

The plan is for at least 70 percent of the rooms in the two new hospitals to be ensuite.

Read more: New projectors needed to help children at Royal Preston Hospital

In a statement after confirmation of the new builds came early on Thursday evening, Kevin McGee, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley hospitals, said that building new facilities on new sites would be “truly transformational ”.

“This is great news – and we are excited by the opportunities our New Hospitals Programme represents for the people of Lancashire and South Cumbria. Although the timing has changed, we welcome having clarity on both the timescales and the funding involved.

“[This will give] us the freedom to design our services and facilities around the needs of our patients, future-proofing services for the next generation.”

Jerry Hawker added that the government announcement “brings our plans to offer the absolute best in modern healthcare and address significant problems with the current ageing hospital buildings a step closer”.

“We look forward to working closely with the national New Hospital Programme team to determine the specific allocation of funding for Lancashire and South Cumbria so that we can understand what this means for our local communities.”

The LDRS understands that a visit to Lancashire by the national team is being planned for the coming weeks.

The Lancashire and South Cumbria scheme was in the fourth of four “cohorts” within the nationwide New Hospitals Programme, placing it amongst the largest and most complex schemes.

A capital budget is yet to be allocated for the Royal Preston and Royal Lancaster replacements from within the “over £20bn” that Steve Barclay announced on Thursday was now expected to be the total investment in the programme across the country. However, the Health Service Journal reported in April that it would cost £35bn to build all of the promised facilities. Until this week, only £3.7bn had been confirmed to fund the earliest projects on the list.

The National Audit Office last year announced that it would be carrying out a value-for-money inquiry into the scheme, which is due to report later this year.

Why Preston needs a new hospital

These were the challenges laid out by the NHS earlier this year about the Royal Preston’s Sharoe Green Lane site.

  • The condition of the facilities has reached a critical stage and, without investment, buildings and services could fail.
  • More than 70 percent of clinical facilities date from the 1970s to the 1990s and are experiencing “serious dilapidation”.
  • 80 percent of the site requires redevelopment or demolition over the medium to long term.
  • Operating theatre capacity is 40 percent below the standard expected for newly built hospitals.
  • Single room provision is available for just 19 percent of patients, compared to the 50 percent standard for new facilities.
  • Inadequate car parking, which forces 1,000 staff to park off-site and use a park and ride.

Source: Case for Change

Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines

Where do you think the new hospital should be? What do you think about the government announcement? Let us know in the comments below

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