A Midland hospital trust is set to lose 300 beds as part of a £190 million redevelopment scheme, announced to staff yesterday.
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust confirmed their ambitious plans would see 300 of the 1,700 beds across Good Hope, Heartlands and Solihull hospitals, axed by 2018.
Several wards, a rehabilitation unit and staff accommodation at Solihull and Good Hope, in Sutton Coldfield, will be bulldozed as part of a the trust’s 10-year redevelopment plan, which is set to start by the end of 2008.
But chief executive Mark Goldman stated that the scheme would be reviewed in 2011/12, when bed capacity may be amended, because "unlike PFIs, we don’t have to make these decisions at the start and stick to them".
He added no job cuts are planned to fund the multi-million pound scheme, which is being financed by trust surpluses.
Good Hope, which faced debts of £47.5 million before it merged with Heart of England in April 2007, will see the biggest investment of about £100 million.
The cash which will be spent on two new ward blocks and refurbishing facilities including A&E, Outpatients, the Fothergill Unit and Simulation Centre. Wards will also be upgraded.
To make way for these changes the Sheldon Unit – which houses ophthalmology, oncology, neurological and stroke services and an elderly care rehabilitation centre – will be demolished. Wards 18 and 21, which cater for diabetic and vascular surgery patients, will also be demolished.
The development project forms part of a savings plan mooted by Heart of England in 2006, prior to its merger with Good Hope, which would claw back £2.63 million per annum.
Mr Goldman said: "The new ward blocks at Good Hope will be built before we vacate any existing wards, so should we require additional beds there is an opportunity to significantly increase bed capacity there.
"When we come to review the project in 2011/12, we’ll look at whether we have to take beds out of the sites.
"If this all goes ahead with the plan as it is at the moment, which is in line with the PCTs’ strategy of offering community-based care, we would lose 300 beds by 2018, but we will keep assessing that against the PCTs’ and the public’s expectation of how those beds should be used.
"We will also have the ability to put beds back into the system when we come to that review because, unlike PFIs, we don’t have to make these decisions at the start and stick to them.
"This is not about saving money but investing in all of our sites, with a focus on improving the environment for our patients."
The remaining £90 million will be invested in improving Solihull and Heartlands’ facilities, with work being carried out simultaneously across all three sites.
Despite the trust’s plans to axe 300 beds, union representatives have backed Heart of England’s multi-million pound scheme.
Ray Salmon, Unison’s regional organiser, said bosses assured the unions that no jobs would be lost through their proposals.
He said: "It is a significant drop in the number of beds but the way it was presented to us last year gave no cause for concern, and local members have not flagged up any issues either.
"Patients no longer need to spend days recuperating in hospital after treatment, so beds are being freed up more quickly as a result of community care and day case surgery."