Green light for hospital package

THE green light has been lit to transform healthcare at one of the largest and busiest hospitals in East Anglia to give patients a 21st Century experience.

THE green light has been lit to transform healthcare at one of the largest and busiest hospitals in East Anglia to give patients a 21st Century experience.

Staff at Ipswich Hospital have been delighted by the news that a massive £24million development is to go ahead - the largest single investment at the Heath Road site since it was built in the 1970s.

The building of a state-of-the-art Critical Care and Diagnostic Treatment Centre was given a glowing endorsement by the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority (SHA) at a meeting yesterday.

Their seal of approval means that, with funding secured through a Private Finance Initiative, the extension should be being up and running by spring 2005.

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"This is a great day for the NHS in East Suffolk and for the community we care for," said Paul Forden, Chief Executive of The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust. "We are very excited and delighted by the news."

"We'll be able to treat even more people, more quickly and put an end to many of the challenges we currently face such as immense pressure on beds, a cramped, outdated critical care centre and major front-line departments such as Accident and Emergency not able to develop because of lack of space."

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Speaking after yesterday's SHA meeting, non-executive authority member Peter Bye said: "The scheme is a cracking project for Ipswich. It brings together so many of the needs of the hospital and it will be the major project for the health authority over the next few years."

The four-story treatment centre will lower bed occupancy rate at Ipswich Hospital to a Government-recommended 85%. Doctors currently cope with a rate of around 97% and wards are frequently have to go on "Red Alert" during busy periods, meaning that all routine operations have to be cancelled due to a lack of beds.

Mr Forden added: "At the moment, people waiting for a planned or 'routine' operation have to ring and check that there is a bed available for them on the day they are due to come into hospital. "Sometimes, because of the number of emergency and urgent admissions, we do not have a bed and have to reschedule operations.

"The new Diagnostic and Treatment Centre means that we can 'safeguard' beds and change the way we work to meet the needs of the people we serve."

Funding the centre through a PFI will see the Trust paying for a private company to build and finance the project over 35 to 40 years. Mr Forden has previously worked with such an arrangement to fund £90million worth of extensions at King's College Hospital in London and he is confident that he will be just as successful at Ipswich.

He said: "King's was one of the first really large PFI projects in the country and we were able to open three months early."

The Trust now has to develop a comprehensive business case including a full design and building specification. This must be completed by mid-summer and after final approval, building work is likely to start in the late autumn.

In association with the treatment centre, the SHA approved £1.8 million to be spend on a short term, temporary day case unit at Ipswich, including one theatre and three recovery beds, ten trolley beds and a pre-admission assessment area.

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