Hospital's £24m centre set for go-ahead

PLANS for a new £24million centre at Ipswich Hospital, which would include state-of-the-art intensive care facilities and four theatres, have moved a massive step closer.

PLANS for a new £24million centre at Ipswich Hospital, which would include state-of-the-art intensive care facilities and four theatres, have moved a massive step closer.

It has emerged a team of senior clinicians and NHS managers from across East Anglia has given the scheme its crucial backing – and it could now get the green light this week.

Last night, a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said they were "delighted" at the development, but stressed they were taking nothing for granted.

If approved, it has been heralded as the most exciting project at the hospital since it was developed in the 1960s and 70s.

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The Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority's Capital Reference Group (CRG) toured the Heath Road site earlier this month to see how viable the £24million project would be.

They have now given their full support to the plan and their recommendation has been passed to the strategic health authority, which will make a final decision when the board meets this Thursday .

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The proposed diagnostic, treatment and critical care centre will be a four-storey building consisting of:

n nine intensive care beds and eight high dependency beds – with room to expand to 22 beds.

n four theatres for day surgery with a recovery area and 30 trolley beds.

n 40 dedicated short stay beds.

These new facilities will allow existing resources to be used differently to provide:

n 72 emergency care beds.

n a temporary winter capacity ward with 16 beds.

n space to expand the Accident and Emergency department to allow faster treatment.

n a twin theatre cataract treatment centre.

All this will mean that the hospital will reduce its bed occupancy rates – currently around 97% - to 85% and will allow it to meet Government NHS targets through to 2009 at least.

Other diagnostic treatment centres could also be developed around east Suffolk in areas such as Felixstowe and Woodbridge, to allow patients to get procedures such as X-rays nearer to their homes.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said they were "delighted" with the CRG's decision but any more celebrations were being put on hold until ultimate approval is given by the strategic health authority.

"We are delighted with the recommendation from the CRG but we still have to wait for the SHA decision," she said.

"Until we are given formal approval by the SHA, which will not happen until the board meeting, we cannot take anything for granted."

Although no final decision has been made, the spokeswoman admitted that the CRG's recommendation was a crucial step in the right direction.

"The CRG's support is vital," she added. "Without the CRG recommendation the SHA would not even have been asked to make a final decision."

If the SHA board approves the plans, the extension could be up and running by April 2005. In its report, the CRG states because of the cost of the scheme, the private finance initiative route for funding it should be explored.

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