A long-awaited new £484 million hospital for West Birmingham has finally got the go-ahead from the Department of Health after months of delays.
Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust bosses revealed at its board meeting that ministers were allowing them to press ahead with the state-of-the-art building in Smethwick to replace City Hospital, in Winson Green, and Sandwell Hospital, in West Bromwich.
Health Minister Mike O’Brien has formally approved the Outline Business Case for the new hospital, in Grove Lane, which is expected to open in 2015.
It means the trust can now purchase land, which may require use of the trust’s Compulsory Purchase powers and is likely to take up to 18 months to complete, although a number of landowners have already expressed an interest in selling their plots.
An invitation for companies and consortia to bid to build the new hospital under a Private Finance Initiative(PFI) will be issued at the end of next year, early 2011 with the preferred bidder selected by early 2013 and building work started soon after.
The Treasury’s approval will need to be sought again before the PFI procurement is launched.
The move comes even though former Health Minister Lord Darzi just last month raised doubts over the future of PFI schemes, which use private company money to fund NHS buildings under a mortgage-type agreement.
Trust chairman Sue Davis was delighted with the announcement and said: “The new hospital is now a step closer.
“Local people can see that we mean business and that their new hospital is going to become a reality.
“It’s particularly good news in this part of Birmingham and the Black Country which has some of the highest deprivation levels and poorest health in the UK.
“It’s important that in the midst of challenging global finances, we continue to improve the care we provide and the facilities we provide it from so that our population can have the care they deserve.
“We have been working hard to deliver first class care in unsuitable buildings for a long time. Many of them are just not up to the job of housing 21st century medical care.
“Since we will be building on an old industrial site, we will also be directly contributing to the regeneration of that area of Smethwick.”
The outline business case was submitted to the Department of Health in February and was expected to be signed off by March but was delayed by ministers.
A new hospital will replace ageing Victorian buildings at City Hospital and facilities at Sandwell Hospital that are not fit for modern healthcare.
The newest parts of City and Sandwell Hospitals, such as Birmingham Treatment Centre and the A&E at Sandwell will become part of community hospitals that will remain on the existing sites.
Controversy has surrounded the scheme over hospital bosses already starting to merge services across the two stie including surgery, baby and children’s departments as a “temporary” measure until the new hospital opens.
Revised plans of the Right Here Right Now project also showed the new hospital would have fewer beds and staff than previously stated with 723 bed and 220 in the community, a total of 943, compared to original proposals in 2004 of 969 hospital beds with 288 in community clinics, a total of 1,257.
The current number of beds across City Hospital, in Winson Green, and Sandwell Hospital, in West Bromwich, is 1,000.
The new hospital will have 14 theatres, 30 high-level critical care beds, 16 lower level critical care beds, 46 neonatal cots, 55 paediatric bed sand 18wards with 32 beds in each.
Once the scheme has been completed, trust bosses plan to sell surplus land at City and Sandwell hospitals for £29million to offset the £22million cost of acquiring the Grove Lane site for the new hospital.