It is vital that clinicians from a wide variety of areas are involved in such a significant programme for our region. My role gives me everyday experience of looking after patients in our current hospitals and an understanding of the challenges we face. I want to ensure that clinical involvement and expertise is at the centre of planning new services that will truly meet the needs of our patients now and in the future.
Working in Royal Preston Hospital has made me extremely aware of the limitations of hospitals designed in a different era and added to over time, as well as the difficulty of adapting the buildings and facilities to meet modern needs. The Covid-19 pandemic quickly highlighted an urgent need for more space to keep patients apart as well as a requirement to expand critical care capacity and this has been a significant challenge to deliver.
Current patient care has to be designed around a hospital layout that has developed over many years in an unplanned way. We have done what we can to adapt existing buildings, but there is a limit to what can be achieved. Outdated facilities are never going to be able to provide the benefits of a new building, which has been planned around the needs of staff and patients, to work in the most efficient way possible.
Great work that has been already undertaken – such as our new expanded Critical Care Unit (opens in new window), has shown the benefits of giving staff additional space, and patients and visitors additional facilities. This is already having a big impact on outcomes and demonstrates how facilities can be transformed with the right investment and commitment.
There is a fantastic opportunity to make not just the piecemeal improvements we have achieved over the years, but a coordinated and integrated redesign of services as a whole, across the entire region. An investment of this scale will allow us to create modern, purpose-designed hospital facilities that can also take advantage of all the latest technological advances. It would not be feasible to incorporate these into existing buildings.
I want to see an integrated hospital estate, purpose-built for the needs of clinicians and the patients we serve, where digital technology helps us work in the most efficient way. It will transform the way doctors and other health professionals interact with individual patients, with primary care and with colleagues at neighbouring hospitals.
Our new buildings should be designed to offer the best possible facilities to support the treatment and recovery of patients being cared for in hospital. They will have a modern environment, high standards of privacy and dignity, more single rooms and facilities to support visitors travelling to be with their families. They will also have the space needed for staff to do their job, take a break and further their education and professional development.
In surgical areas, I would like to see a far greater ability to treat patients on a day case basis. To deliver the best service we need investment to access the very latest advances in technology, including image guidance and robotic technology, to further improve patient outcomes and speed up treatment and recovery.
We also need to plan new facilities to meet future demands on the NHS. This means having the capacity and flexibility to ensure we can continue planned procedures and day-to-day patient care, while being able to respond to the challenge of periods when we know there will be increases in emergency admissions.
Lancashire and South Cumbria is a large region and everyone who lives here should have access to the very best standards of healthcare. These plans aspire to provide that and to link local health facilities and hospitals together in a way we have not achieved before.
Local people should have to travel less for routine appointments and will be able to take advantage of better technology to talk to experts from the comfort of home or from their local health centre.
When people do need to come to hospital, they will be cared for in a facility that is modern, welcoming, high-tech and designed around their specific needs – to get them home again quickly and support their ongoing care and recovery.
Significant investment in new buildings equipped with the latest technology and providing the best possible working environment will also ensure that our region can compete on equal terms with anywhere in the country to attract and retain highly qualified staff.
This level of investment to transform the healthcare of the people of our region provides a fantastic opportunity for all of us who work in the NHS.
I am very keen to play as full a part as possible in contributing to future plans and, in particular, helping to shape what sort of hospital estate will be needed. The opportunity to be involved in potentially planning brand new facilities is a rare and unusual one and I want to do everything possible personally to make it a success.
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