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Aaron Cummins on what the New Hospitals Programme means for the future of healthcare in our region 

Photograph of Aaron Cummins

Once completed, the brand-new facilities that the Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme will bring will be a huge boost to the region. As University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) (opens in a new window) Chief Executive Aaron Cummins explains, it’s about more than just new buildings though. 

What impact is the New Hospitals Programme likely to have across the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria? 

With the opportunity that the New Hospitals Programme presents, it’s not just new hospitals or new facilities that will bring all the benefits we expect in terms of lower costs, better experience, improving retention and recruitment of new colleagues wanting to come into our patch. It will also mean that we’re able to resolve quality and safety issues and patient experience issues permanently for our populations.  

Whilst it’s true this investment is designed to improve hospital facilities, it absolutely will drive the investment and the improvement we need in primary care, in local communities and in our integrated place-based systems. 

There are obviously other programmes of work of improvement, but when we land the business case for the New Hospitals Programme, it will have an absolutely phenomenal impact on our long-term improvement ambitions and for the quality of services that we provide to our communities. 

What difference will new and state-of-the-art facilities make to your Trust? 

The reason I’m so excited, particularly as the Chief Executive at UHMBT, is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s a legacy opportunity to bring new facilities and much needed investment into our patch.  

Living and working in Morecambe Bay, it’s a fantastic place to live and work and we’ve got an ambition in the Bay Health and Care Partners (opens in a new window) and UHMBT to create a great place to live and a great place to be cared for.  

We work really hard as a group of colleagues every year to progress more towards that end point, yet when we look at the impact of that effort, we’re hamstrung a little bit by the facilities and the infrastructure that we have available to us – the amount of money it takes us to run these facilities that we have at the moment is significantly more than a good quality group of hospitals would cost to run.  

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary is specifically a large part of this bid due to the amount of backlog maintenance required. The amount of money we would need to spend to bring the condition of that facility up to an acceptable standard is around £88million. 

What work is ongoing to develop a system-wide approach? 

There’s a programme of work now that we’re leading as a Provider Collaborative (opens in a new window) within our health and care system around developing a new clinical strategy and a new operational strategy across all hospital sites. This includes the sites of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (opens in a new window), UHMBT, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, because we have many, many issues to improve, including waiting lists of a size we’ve never seen before off the back of Covid.  

We need to make sure that all of our facilities are being used in the most productive and efficient way, which means we’re going to start talking about investment in things like elective centres and hubs for community diagnostic facilities.  

How will the New Hospitals Programme manage the balance between cost and benefits? 

The New Hospitals Programme sits within the context of a whole integrated care system (opens in a new window) strategy for delivery of good quality health and care services. Costs for health and care services are driven by demand for care, but also by the facilities, infrastructure and staff needed to deliver them. 

What we need to do is clearly demonstrate what added value the investment in these new facilities gives us. You build new facilities and they cost less to run, so it’ll create some savings there. But some of the benefits that we’re expecting from these investments are linked to better outcomes for patients and higher quality and safety of care, and there are costs associated with harms and inefficient care that we’ll need to work through and see what kind of cost release that gives us.  

We’ve got some significant ambitions around the net carbon zero agenda, so we’re going to put some investments up front on reducing the kind of carbon footprint of these facilities, and then we’ve also got the benefits that we’re expecting to see from a significant digital and innovation piece around these services, and making sure that we’re putting the right infrastructure in for digital to deliver care closer to home for virtual wards, for virtual clinics, which should take some of the costs of delivery of care out of the system.

What do you see as being the wider system benefits that the New Hospitals Programme can bring? 

The privacy and dignity whilst you’re receiving treatment or you’re in hospital is a really important part of recovery, and good patient experience. We just don’t have the ability to service that need now in any way like the way that we should.  

We’re all looking at the impact that we have as anchor institutions in our communities on things like employment, but also the Greener NHS (opens in a new window) and net carbon zero ambitions. We need to put ourselves in a better place so that we’re taking care of the environment for future generations, as well as the care facilities that we provide and the New Hospitals Programme gives us a huge opportunity to get a real jump on that. 

Author: Aaron Cummins, Chief Executive Officer at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

Read more about the shortlist of proposals for new hospital facilities in our region.

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