Board members at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust have decided to press ahead with extensive refurbishment of North Devon District Hospital.
They gave the go-ahead for a £23.5m programme that will see the site undergo major work over the next four-five years, with the aim of grouping services in the best way to improve care and efficiency.
Capital limits and the sale of part of the site should mean there is no need to borrow money for the development. The Trust will also be able to draw on a £1m donation towards a new chemotherapy unit.
Detailed planning work will now begin, with the aim of developing an updated estates strategy by the latter part of June and starting work within a matter of weeks.
The decision comes at a time when the Trust is moving towards a break-even following a long period of financial difficulty. It should be back in balance by the end of 2007/08.
The Board., meeting on Tuesday 1 May, looked at three potential ways forward for the hospital site:
1 Mend and make do – patch up the estate
2 Build a new hospital, as recommended in a report by consultants Durrow
3 Refurbish the site, redesigning key departments to fit new clinical models
The three were scored against a series of criteria, including patient safety, clinical effectiveness and sustainability. Both option 2 and option 3 scored much higher than option 1, with option 3 just ahead.
However, it was economic considerations that made option 3 the clear winner. Option 2 had the highest risks and costs, even though it would be best for service development.
Refurbishment is expected to be completed by 2011, compared to a timescale of 5-10 years for a new build through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) route.
As well as avoiding escalation of costs under PFI and being locked into a 25-30-year contract, refurbishment allows the Trust to control its own destiny. It also retains flexibility – a vital consideration given the rate of evolution in treatment and care that can rapidly make buildings unfit for purpose.
Trust Chairman Brian Sherwin said: “We really are at the start of a new chapter for the Trust and for the people of North Devon. Only last week the strategic health authority assured us that our work to modernise services and wipe out the financial deficit meant there was no question about our viability.
“Now we’ve got a clear vision of how we’re going to reshape the hospital to house those services and improve the setting for patients.
“There’s a huge amount of detailed work to do on how departments will best fit together on the refurbished site but, thanks to everyone who has already contributed ideas, we’ve got a solid basis for making rapid progress.”
Chief Executive Jac Kelly said: “We won’t have a new hospital, but we’ll have a renewed hospital. Much of the estate is 30 years old, so we really do need to get on.
“We’ve been through a rough period over finances, but now we’re on track to break even and about to start work to create the 21st century hospital that the people of North Devon need and deserve. Things are really looking up.”
A new mission statement for the Trust was also agreed by the Board as: “Best Care, Highest Standards, Right Place.” This is supported by 10 strategic objectives, giving a framework for the Trust to develop its services.