Revealed - First look at £25m plans for new Ipswich Hospital A&E
PUBLISHED: 14:14 22 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:21 23 July 2019
Health bosses have spelled out their vision to pump nearly £25million into a new A&E and urgent care department at Ipswich Hospital.
Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), said the organisation is using a £69.3million grant from the government to make the "single largest investment" they have ever made in both of its major hospitals, Ipswich and Colchester.
It follows the busiest ever day at Ipswich Hospital yesterday, with 321 people passing through the department due to summer demand.
The news comes a year on from the merger of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals to form ESNEFT.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a significant investment in the health and wellbeing of people in our area," Mr Hulme said.
The first stage is to build an 'urgent treatment centre' and new A&E department at Ipswich Hospital, using a £24.8million slice of the cash.
What are they planning to build at Ipswich, and what's the timescale?
A planning application is going in for a new A&E and urgent treatment centre building on August 8 - and if it's given the green light, it will move back to where A&E was originally, where the fracture clinic is now.
It will be a two-storey building and house new CT and MRI scanners.
The new facility will cater for an estimated 50,000 patients who arrive at A&E each year with conditions that could be safely managed elsewhere - such as sprains, fever and vomiting. Bosses hope it will reduce waiting times and improve their experience of accessing care.
Mr Hulme said: "The first thing patients will see is obviously a brand new shiny building, what they will also experience is quicker access to diagnostics, quicker access to the right clinician at the right time, and therefore reducing the amount of time they're in that kind of not quite a 'no man's land', but they're going to be treated much quicker.
"We're also up-sizing it, to make sure we can deal with more demand."
"This will change the model of care in that everybody will be seen and triaged at the front, so that A&E effectively becomes referral-only.
He added: "You won't be able to walk into A&E anymore, you'll have to come through this urgent care centre, which will then triage you to either an emergency nurse practitioner or a GP working at the front.
"For some time it's seemed a bit strange - say if I collapse now god forbid with chest pain, I kind of want to see a cardiologist.
"At the moment, I would go straight to A&E, I would be seen by the A&E team and then referred to cardiology.
"We're taking out a step in the process."
How much will the projects cost?
In early 2018 the trust was awarded £69.3m in support of the Ipswich/Colchester hospital merger.
It was one of the only organisations in England to secure this cash.
Now, they are using £24.8m of it to fund a new A&E at the Ipswich Hospital site in Heath Road.
Another £2million is being used to fund a new MRI scanner at Ipswich.
Much of the Colchester revamp is being funded by private investment companies, but the internal refit of A&E will cost around £7.5m.
When will the new A&E be ready?
Paul Fenton, director of estates at ESNEFT, said the front half of the new urgent treatment centre at Colchester, complete with new shops such as WH Smith, M&S Simply Food and Costa Coffee, should be ready by Christmas.
Construction should start at Ipswich - if planning permission is given by the council, and if the development is approved by the trust's board and NHS Improvement - in late April, early May 2020 with an estimated completion date of September 2022.
The construction period should last around 18 months, Mr Fenton said.
He added: "The internal refit at Colchester won't be ready by 2021. This is because we're doing it in a live environment.
"However, the construction at Ipswich is far easier as we're building a new department.
"This is a really exciting project for the trust which we're looking forward to delivering."
The remainder of the £69.3million (around £35m) will go towards the second phase of the trust's renovation project, a new orthopaedics centre at either Ipswich or Colchester hospital.
What's happening at Colchester?
The multi-million pound revamp of Colchester Hospital is already under way.
When it is finished, it will adopt a similar model to Ipswich, with an urgent care centre being built alongside a host of new shops with high street names.
Bosses aim to have this finished by Christmas.
As part of the expansion of A&E, and with the creation of the urgent treatment centre, the nearby walk-in centre will be replaced.
How can I find out more about the new Ipswich A&E, and what it will mean for me?
An open drop-in session is being held next Monday, July 29, from 4pm to 8pm at Ipswich Hospital's Courtyard restaurant. This is for anyone who wants to look at the plans in more detail.