Health Correspondent Emma Brady looks at how development plans will transform Sutton Coldfield's Good Hope Hospital and its sister sites.
In 2006 Good Hope Hospital was a debt-ridden trust facing a "worst case scenario" deficit of £47.5 million. But a partnership deal brokered by a neighbouring trust helped turn it round. As plans go, Heart of England’s 10-year redevelopment unveiled yesterday is ambitious – and with a budget of £190 million, there is a long shopping list of improvements.
But Mark Goldman, the trust’s chief executive, readily admits investment in Good Hope is long overdue. "There has been a lack of investment at Good Hope in recent years, and to a certain extent at Heartlands and Solihull. However some of the buildings on the Sutton site are not suitable for refurbishment, which is why new ward blocks are included. That said, we’re not interested in carving up parts of the estate to sell off to supermarkets or anything else."
That would have been the 'easy option’ for trust bosses in February 2006, as debts were set to top £47 million. Heart of England, which had managed the struggling trust since November 2005, drew up radical cost-cutting measures to save £21 million per year.
But months before Good Hope merged with the trust, bosses were drawing up a master redevelopment plan for the three hospitals.
While 300 of the existing 1,700 beds are set to be lost through the 10-year scheme, Mr Goldman is confident patients will feel the benefit of more efficient healthcare.
There are 577 beds at Good Hope, 800 at Heartlands and 350 at Solihull.
Six-bed bays will become four-bed wards, to increase the number of single rooms by 40 per cent.
"The decision over how many beds to take out, if at all, is not driven by a need to save money," said Mr Goldman. "This project is being funded by surpluses we have generated and money we already have in the bank. It’s not about saving money. Are jobs going to have to go to fund this? Absolutely not. There are no planned job losses."
Extensive refurbishment of the Fothergill Unit, which will become a dedicated mother and baby centre, staff residences, simulation centre, the Richard Salt Unit, A&E, outpatients, day theatres, treatment centre and main entrance will breathe life into the hospital which began as a Victorian house in 1943.
The plans are not just about bed numbers. Solihull is set to become a "health campus", and at some point an oncology centre.
Other key developments include a new entrance and "new land" for use at the Grove Road end of the site, as well as additional parking.
To make room, the hospital’s dermatology and physiotherapy blocks will be demolished, along with temporary buildings. At Heartlands, in Bordesley Green, proposals for a Medipark and Medical Innovation Development and Research Unit (MIDRU) are the main additions, with Acute and Critical Care units, A&E, outpatients and wards set for refurbishment.
Parking will be expanded, with 200 additional spaces for Good Hope, plus extra provision at Heartlands and Solihull.
Mr Goldman said: "There is no need for us to borrow from the NHS Bank unless we wanted to complete the project in less than 10 years, but we can’t close Heart of England’s hospitals for three years, because the city’s other hospitals wouldn’t be able to cope.
"Hopefully most of the major work will be completed by 2012.
"Work should begin on the new buildings at Good Hope by end of 2010, taking about 18 months, and the new main entrance for Solihull should be finished by 2011.
"There is a lot to do but I’m confident it will all fall into place once this rolling programme gets started."
He added "seasonal ward closures" would enable the trust to slide patients into different wards when areas have to be vacated.
"We’re working within the local health economy, so I’m glad we’re doing this rather than trying to build another ’superhospital’ like University Hospital Birmingham," said Mr Goldman.
"After Heart of England merged with Good Hope our mantra was always to provide ’local hospitals for local people’ and these plans are consistent with that.
"This is not about getting any cash benefits, it’s about recognising the importance of Good Hope to people in north Birmingham and south Staffordshire, and securing its long term future for the communities it serves."