Study into cost of new Doncaster hospital

Health bosses are looking into the cost of building a new hospital in Doncaster.

Friday, 16th August 2019, 5:37 pm

The project is set to find out whether it would be more viable to create a completely new building to replace the current property, which dates back more than 50 years, than to run a series of repairs and upgrades that are currently required.

In an interview with the Doncaster Free Press, Richard Parker, the chief executive of the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, confirmed the new build option was being looked into.

Plans for a major refurbishment have previously been drawn up but the NHS has yet to approve any funding for those improvements.

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The A&E department at Doncaster Royal Infirmary DRI ER accident and emergency

Some improvements are going ahead, including a scanner suite which is due to open early next year.

But the hospital has not been able to go forward with other major work, including refurbishing the main tower, because of lack of capital funding.

Mr Parker said the hospital was still looking at the refurbishment, which would also include major improvements to the women’s hospital and moving the orthopaedic department on the site.

But he said: “One of the big concerns is that if there is a way of financing a major capital build, is there a way to finance a new hospital? We have now started doing an options appraisal.

cancer2, Doncaster Royal Infirmary

“We have previously put in a bid to refurbish the hospital. That bid was submitted and the money was not available, and that still leaves the challenge of the tower block.

“For all the work that needs doing, we are looking at several hundred million pounds, and the hospital would have to be working throughout all that work.

“We need to look at what would be the best move financially for the public of Doncaster as well as the public finances.

“I don’t want to create expectation because there is no guarantee that there is the sort of capital that we would need is available. What I would say is capital is an issue because it is an older site. We are looking at all options.

“We are doing the work to assess the finances of all the options. If you do a major refurbishment it takes longer because you’re building while people are trying to work.

“If you build from new it does not take as long. Refurbishing involves retro-fitting a building that was not designed for the current period, so we need to assess whether a new building is the better option. Spending capital on keeping the place fit for purpose and safe may take many years.”

Mr Parker believes if there was a case for a new hospital, and if the money was available, it would not be built on the present site.

He believes it would be difficult to build at the current location in Intake at the junction of Armthorpe Road and Thorne Road, because it is ‘landlocked’ – surrounded on all sides by roads and buildings.

Mr Parker believes it is more likely a new site would be found, somewhere that would meet the needs of the public.

Work has been done in the past to look at possible sites, so officials would be ready to move it money did become available. Doncaster Waterfront has been among those areas looked at in the past, he said.

The criteria would be that a site would need to be easy for both ambulances and patients to get to, with good parking or park-and-ride facilities, and room for flexibility in the design, with any plans drawn up with involvement from patients, the public, Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, and Doncaster Council.

“We have not ruled anything in or out because we are trying to create a case for change in terms of what we need and why we need it, and to make sure that it’s the best long term solution for the people of Doncaster and the taxpayer,” said Mr Parker

“But we would consider ourselves a priority for capital if it becomes available because of the age of the buildings, which date back to the 50s and 60s. Just replacing windows could cost £1 million.

“Most clinical areas have no air conditioning because of the old design, and we don’t have enough reserve capacity in terms of electricity. They didn’t know what we would need for MRI scanners when they built in the 50s.”

Inspection on the way

Officials at Doncaster Royal Infirmary are preparing for a full inspection by the Care Quality Commission later this year.

An inspection last year rated the urgent and emergency care services as requiring improvement.

Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Richard Parker said changes had been made to address the issues raised, including changes to the triage system, which assesses patients when they first arrive at hospital.

He said he hoped it reflected positively, and it will be the first time the rating can be changed.

But more and more people are attending the hospital’s emergency department, with the numbers up around five per cent on last year.

“A&E was built to deal with 200 to 250 patients. We’re not dealing with 300 to 350 most days, and over 400 on very busy days.”

Action on smoking

Smokers could face fines for lighting up outside Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

New security officers at the hospital are being trained so they could use anti-nuisance laws to fine people for smoking.

Trust chief executive Richard Parker said: “We have a challenge around where people continue to smoke around the main entrance, It is a real challenge to encourage people not to smoke on site or to stop smoking. It isn’t not just cancer – Doncaster has among the highest rates of chronic pulmonary disease.

“The entrance now has walls around it so it is legally enforceable as a no smoking area. We have to balance people’s right to smoke with the rights of those who don’t want it around them.”