WORK is now under way on a new hospital near Cramlington promising to revolutionise the way patients are given emergency care.
The Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, just off the A189, will be the first in the country to offer 24-hour specialist accident-and-emergency care.
Patients will be seen by an emergency care consultant, then treated by one of a team of specialists – including cardiologists, respiratory consultants and surgeons – on duty seven days a week.
The Duchess of Northumberland, Jane Percy, performed a ground-breaking ceremony in an excavator on Tuesday to mark the start of work on the site.
She also met staff and found out how they have helped design the £75m hospital, changing the way emergency care will be delivered in south east Northumberland.
The new hospital will be made up of a casualty department, admission and in-patient wards, a short-stay paediatric facility and constultant-led maternity unit.
Chris Biggin, emergency care consultant and strategic clinical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, said that speedy access to specialists would save lives and result in improved outcomes for vulnerable patients.
“The last time I stood in this field eight months ago, I was dodging the turnips, so now with the landscaping, it feels very real,” he said on Tuesday.
“The 27 months that we have to go until we get the keys is going to go very very quickly, and we have an awful lot to do in that time.
“This is one of the quickest coming to fruitions I have ever witnessed.
“It was only 2009 that I was going round parish halls in Northumberland and now it is 2012, and by 2015 it will be there.
“All patients want to know is that they are going to get the best care possible.
“We are blessed in this region. We are in a really, really lucky position.
“Patients have understood this straight away and bought into it, and we feel this will improve standards.”
The hospital’s innovative design spans three floors and includes wards arranged around a central nurses’ station.
Trust chief executive Jim Mackey said: “This will improve healthcare for the 500,000 people of North Tyneside and Northumberland, giving them access to some of the best emergency care in this country and internationally.
“I am immensely proud of our clinical teams, who have worked hard to improve the way we deliver emergency care.
“They have taken ideas from home and abroad to provide quality care in a modern setting for the first time in this country.”
The duchess said: “It is a great honour to break the ground for lots of reasons, not only because it will be a wonderful facility for Northumberland, but most importantly that it is providing a service of specialist emergency care 24 hours a day in a state-of-the-art facility.
“It is an amazing thing to be building in times of economic hardship, and the fact that it is in the north east is a double whammy.
“I think everybody will get behind this. The fact that we have this in the middle of Northumberland, and we don’t have to travel into a city is remarkable.
“This is going to be easy to find – it is close to the A1 – and I think it is something we should be really proud of. The fact that we have managed to pull this off in the current economic climate is a real coup.
“I think it is going to save people’s lives, and it will provide comfort to all of us whether we are ill or sick.
“Should something terrible happen, at least we know where to go.”
Work will begin shortly on the new building and it is expected to take two years to complete.
n Duchess opens new care unit – Page 13
n Trust launches recruitment drive – Page 33