Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Our Hospitals of the Future

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Our Hospitals of the Future

Article excerpt

Byline: By Amanda Crook

This is the first glimpse of a pounds 200m revamp of Newcastle's flagship hospitals which will create up to 2,000 construction jobs over four years.

Health chiefs yesterday named Equion plc as the preferred bidder for the privately funded scheme which will see major development work at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital and the closure of Newcastle General Hospital.

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme will now undergo a six months review to determine how it compares to a public funded option.

The PFI bid uses North construction company Laing O'Rourke and the new units will make up nearly one-third of the hospital buildings by 2007. When the building project is complete all the hospital buildings will be maintained by North Tyneside-based M+W Zander for the next 35 years.

Following criticism of some of the North's other PFI hospitals, the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, and the University Hospital of North Durham, health unions last night urged the hospital trust not to follow the PFI route.

But Sir Miles Irving, chairman of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, pledged: "The new buildings will be a credit to the NHS and the local environment and we believe shall be admired for generations to come."

Len Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle Hospitals, said the project would increase the number of beds and operating theatre provision. The trust currently has about 1,800 beds on the three sites.

The project - which is understood to have been approved by all senior medical staff in the hospitals - will be the region's biggest ever hospital development. It will include:

* A cancer centre

* Renal services

* A major new accident and emergency department

* X-ray and neuroscience department

* Infectious diseases unit

* A new children's wing including the Bubble Baby unit and other specialised paediatric services.

Dr Andrew Cant, clinical director of children's services, said: "The proposal helps us move children's services from outmoded accommodation at the General Hospital and the RVI into purpose-built and integrated accommodation. …

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