Health chiefs in hospital upgrade pledge

NHS bosses have moved to reassure taxpayers that a new £220million hospital upgrade will be big enough.A spokesman for Essex Rivers NHS Trust said yesterday its proposed revamp at Colchester General Hospital would be in line with thinking on modern health policies.

NHS bosses have moved to reassure taxpayers that a new £220million hospital upgrade will be big enough.

A spokesman for Essex Rivers NHS Trust said yesterday its proposed revamp at Colchester General Hospital would be in line with thinking on modern health policies.

He was responding to suggestions made by Trust director, David Hewitt, who is in charge of the Private Finance Initiative (Pfi) funding the project, that the upgraded hospital would not have enough beds, theatres or consulting rooms.

Mr Hewitt this week told his trust board colleagues he was worried there would not be enough capacity to meet future health demands.

He also warned that the trust could face problems repaying loans taken out to finance the project if bosses did not find new ways of maximising efficiency.

He said one way would be to increase the opening hours of key facilities, for example extending outpatient services from earlier in the morning until later at night rather than the current 9am-5pm pattern.

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However, the trust spokesman said the full business case for the project had not yet been completed and experts were still working on the detail. But “flexibility” would be the watchword, he added.

“We've got an outline business case, but we're still calculating many of the future activity levels, which will determine much of the requirements,” he said.

“There will be extra beds and theatres when complete and we are confident that the hospital will not be too small nor too big.”

He added the trust would also rely on modern practices as a way to alleviate pressure on hospital staff.

“More services like diabetes care will be transferred to a new primary care centre, which will be opened in spring next year,” he said.

The project already has outline planning permission and an application for full status is expected to be considered next month.

The trust board is due to sign off the full business case on June 13.