As Medical Lead for the New Hospitals Programme, my role is to make sure that the plans being developed are led by medical expertise. The aim is that they will deliver the best possible combination of services to meet the needs of patients right across the region.
This is a huge opportunity for our region. We want to deliver the best combination of services to meet the needs of local people right across Lancashire and South Cumbria. It is important that we work with GPs and primary care colleagues, community care, mental health and ambulance services, as well as all our hospital trusts and commissioners in the region, to ensure we have everyone’s input.
We need to address the problems with some of our hospital buildings, such as those in Lancaster and Preston, which are outdated and need replacing. Many of these older buildings have layouts that don’t make sense for the way that patients need to move around our hospitals now. They do not make the most efficient use of the space or staff time. Many of the issues we face in those hospitals relate to issues with the buildings.
Significant chunks of the current health budget is being spent on trying to keep these buildings going. This is poor value for money and is unsustainable in the longer term, so I want to see a solution that will deliver the modern, efficient facilities our patients and staff need and deserve.
This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to plan new hospital facilities by working across NHS boundaries and breaking down traditional barriers.
I want to ensure we provide compassionate care, delivered in the best working environment.
New hospital facilities should be designed to support and work seamlessly with other hospitals across the region, improving access to services for everyone.
I want the hospitals of the future to be centres of excellence with multi-specialty services, delivering great standards of care. They should provide an excellent patient environment and be environmentally-friendly as well as digitally-enabled and future-proof, offering state-of-the-art robotics and diagnostic imaging using the latest Artificial Intelligence techniques.
Hospital services need to be accessible, with good public transport links and easy car parking to make it easy to reach for patients, visitors and staff.
Education is also essential to retain existing staff and attract the best workforce for the future. To support this, we need a world-class education centre, housing training and research, library facilities, IT and the most advanced training aids such as simulators and wet labs, where drugs, chemicals and other types of biological substances can be analysed and tested using various liquids on-site.
From my personal point of view, in my work at Furness General Hospital I’ve been heavily involved in the development of a new maternity unit, the South Lakes Birth Centre, which opened three years ago. I have seen what a huge difference this facility has made to patient care and the hospital environment, improving the experience for existing staff and helping attract new consultants to the hospital.
I have also seen the value of seeking the ideas of local people and incorporating these in the design of the new building. Their input allowed us to incorporate rest facilities for partners as part of the design of the unit and create a dedicated quiet suite for parents who have suffered the sadness of a stillbirth or miscarriage. We will bring this approach to the New Hospitals Programme to make sure that patient voices help shape our new hospital facilities.
Working in Furness has also made me realise the disadvantages that geographically isolated areas in our region can suffer, increasing the possibility of patients in such areas having longer travel times and potentially unequal access to many services. I want to make sure our more isolated health facilities and the people who use them don’t miss out on the benefits of this exciting programme.
Equally, for staff it will be a new and inspiring experience to work in brand new, purpose-built facilities that few will have experienced before in their careers. Working in a new building, built to the latest standards and designed with the help of staff input, will be a big boost to morale. Our staff already do a brilliant job, and new facilities will give them the opportunity to enhance the care they provide to patients.
For patients, the hospital of the future isn’t simply a shiny new building, although we do know that a better environment improves the health and wellbeing of our patients.
It is also about creating streamlined hospitals that flow well, with one-stop clinics, more outpatient activities and the opportunity to support community and primary care. We will use telemedicine technology, such as online consultations, to ensure patients only need to travel when it is necessary to see a medical professional in person.
Bringing more expertise and services into the region will reduce the need for patients to travel outside Lancashire and South Cumbria for specialist care.
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