Doncaster health bosses want university site in town

Hospital bosses would like to see a university site in the town – possibly at Doncaster’s waterfront.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 12:31 pm

Proposals for a unversity centre along the banks of the River Don in the town centre, as well as a hospital and a research centre, have been raised as a possibility, and were recently outlined in Doncaster College minutes.

Now the chief executive of the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, Richard Parker, has confirmed that it is something leaders at the hospital would like to see, although it would depend on both finance and public consultation. He said the Waterfront is a possible location that could be considered, along with a site near the M18.

Officials are more optimistic that the borough could get a new hospital than they have been for decades, following the visit of the government health secretary, Matt Hancock, earlier this month.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Richard Parker, chief executive of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Richard Parker, chief executive of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

They believe the £54 million backlog in repairs means it now makes sense to construct a new facility at a building dating back to the 1930s in parts, that struggles to cope with modern needs for power supplies.

Richard Parker, chief executive of the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, said: “When the secretary of state came to Bassetlaw in December, we said it might be useful to see some of the challenges in Doncaster and how in the the context of all proposals, a sensible way forward was a new hospital building. We believe that is the best use of public money for the people of Doncaster, but we have to provide a full business case.

“He came at relatively short notice, and we showed him the orthopedic site, and some of the oldest parts of the hospital. He confirmed he could see why were were pressing for a new hospital.”

But he added that the trust would look at moving the hospital from its present site. That would involve working closely with Doncaster Council to find land. They would have to build sections, move staff and equipment, and then knock down a section, in successive stages, if they remained on the current site. Mr Parker believes it would be a longer time scale and is keen to move as fast as possible. He said if a new hospital was to come about, the trust would look to use technology as well as possible. It may open video conferencing facilties that would allow patients to speak to doctors remotely, without having to queue in waiting rooms.

Doncaster Waterfront, near Doncaster College

He also confirmed there would be interest in basing it alongside education facilities, in a move he feels would be good for Doncaster as a whole – a borough that he refers to as a city.

“We would want to make sure the approach we take is all joined up,” he said: “The college has a proposal to seriously consider a university of Doncaster, which we think would be good for Doncaster as a city.

“We train a third of the clinical students in South Yorkshire that come through Sheffield’s universities. If they’re not based in Doncaster, in accommodation here near the sites of education, it is a potential lost opportunity. There needs to be an increase in doctors and nurses and we would like to be in a position both as a city and as an employer to provide that.

“If we have a university facility in Doncaster, students would come to Doncaster, facilities would be there for them, and it is more likely they would stay when they qualify, and young people in Doncaster are more likely to see the value of university, because they could see one in the town.

Doncaster Waterfront, viewed from Church Way

“If everything comes together, we’d like a co-location. It would also mean students would not have to travel every day from Sheffield, which would be good for carbon emmissions and help with the climate emergency that the council has called.

“We’ve looked at a few sites. We have looked at the Waterfront. We have also looked at land near junction three of the M18, because there may be enough space there to do it.

“If we do manage to secure a university concept, students like to be near where they live, because it’s cheaper and good for you.

“We’re in a phase were there is a real will to re-build NHS infrastructure. We want Doncaster to be at the forefront of that.”

Great Yorkshire Way, at M18 junction three. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP FARRRS MC 1

He said that new and modern buildings were good for staff satisfaction and made recruitment easier. There would be public consultation on the plans, and the trust would need to make sure the public was supportive of a potential move, but if the hospital was relocated, it would only be by a few miles. “We would not be moving out of the city,” he added.

He confirmed the hospital would like a medical research centre.

Mr Parker said that when the trust became a teaching hospital, it had wanted to expand its research work.

“We have a robust programme, but with the right facilities, we could do more, and at a higher level, not just in terms of individual students, but at a higher academic level. We would like to increase the number of professors of surgery. We have one at present. That brings in more people who want to do research. We also want patients in Doncaster to be able to take part in research trials of new treatments.

“We want to plan for the future with an expanded research and education portfolio.”

He said the hospital had strong links with Sheffield University, but would like a university facility in Doncaster, and that would help attract students and lecturers

“From our point of view, we’d like to accelerate a move as soon as possible,” he said. But there are financial processes to go through. We would like to be in a position where building work is nearing completion in five years. A new hospital of the size we’re talking about would take two or three years to build.

“The secretary of state’s visit gave us cause for optimism, and we were enacouraged that he told us to move on with the business case. Our medical director has said he is more optimistic than he has been in the last 20 years. It would be great for the city and the economy, and if we don’t have 200 students travelling back and forth from Sheffield every day, it’s good for the carbon footprint.”

Scanner suite set to boost hospital

Doncaster Royal Infirmary is set to see a boost in the next few weeks – with the opening of its new scanner.

The hospital has built a new suite which will allow a single operator to operate two scanners at the same time, potentially speeding up the process of getting a scan in the borough.

It will open in March, providing two state of the art CT scanners, said Mr Parker.

It comes at a time when the hospital is also trialling a rapid diagnosis centre for cancer, at Mexborough Montagu Hospital.

Mr Parker said: “It may mean less waiting and anxiety for the patients. Most will be found not to have cancer, but for those that do, the diagnosis should be quicker, and treatment potentially more successful. All tests should be done in one day.

“The first phase is about setting it up.”

The hospital would like to make plans to run a similar scheme in the future if the trial is successful.