Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust publishes New Hospitals report

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust has released a report detailing the need for new hospitals in the area. 

The New Hospitals Programme report, entitled ‘Case for Change’ and published in July 2021, covers the trust’s ambitions and objectives, as well as detailing how the current infrastructure does not meet its needs in areas such as the future of its digital transformation, workforce retainment and use of resources.

The executive summary of the report says that the ambition of the programme is to “make our region a world-leading centre of excellence for hospital care.” 

Five critical challenges that the trust believes must be addressed to build and construct successful, modern hospitals for Lancashire and South Cumbria residents, are set out in the report. These are:

  • Demographic trends and access 
  • Ageing acute estate 
  • Specific site-related problems 
  • Keeping up with the best in the world 
  • Playing a full part in rebuilding the regional economy.  

Around 20 per cent of the population that the trust serves lives in 10 per cent of the most deprived communities, and the report says: “There is a proven link between these factors and NHS activity levels – we anticipate an increase in demand on health services both in and out of hospitals in the future.” 

The status of the current estate is another existing challenge for the programme, with the aim to replace “some buildings dating back to the 19th century” that are “still in active use.”

A stark warning is also outlined in the report, which says: “The condition of Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) and Royal Preston Hospital (RPH) has reached a critical stage. Without investment, buildings and services could fail.” 

The report goes in-depth about the existing problems and issues faced at specific hospital sites, such as at the Royal Preston Hospital, where more than 70 per cent of the estate is currently experiencing “serious dilapidation” and the funding to carry out the backlog of maintenance would total £157m. 

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary Estate suffers from a separate set of problems, as the hospital links buildings with a series of long passageways, making patient journeys longer than necessary. As the hospital has no main entrance, it can also cause confusion for patients and visitors. 

Ambitions for new hospitals include focusing on ‘greener’ hospitals, with the report saying: “We want the programme to play a leading role in tackling the key issues of our generation – cutting carbon emissions and environmental damage.” 

The report goes into further detail about the Integrated Care System’s ambitions for 2025, and post 2030. The common pillars of the estate that need extensive work include poor clinical adjacencies, car parking, and that the estate does not do not comply with Health Building Notes standards.  

Digital technology will be a pillar of the new hospitals and will connect patients and clinicians. The ICS has seen a significant uptake in digital tools, as the report cites that those in “Lancashire and South Cumbria, with almost 500,000 people across the region” have downloaded an app that helps them connect with their GP surgery. The pandemic has also boosted demand for technology-based care, with more than 30 per cent of outpatient appointments now taking place via video or phone call.  

The digital transformation that will take place at the new hospitals will use five key themes:

  • Empower the person – developing digital solutions in partnership with the people who will be using them and judging progress against this digital strategy from the public’s perspective 
  • Support the frontline – creating an environment that empowers the frontline 
  • Integrate services – using data to prevent, predict and respond to ill-health 
  • Managing the system more effectively – working together to reduce complexity, to improve quality and safety and provide care closer to home 
  • Create the future – engaging with academia, industry, and others to accelerate innovation. 

Workforce retention is seen as a priority for the trust, with the report being clear in saying “the very poor condition of our infrastructure at Royal Preston Hospital and Royal Lancaster Infirmary is a structural barrier to the trusts’ ability to recruit and retain a sufficient and high calibre workforce.” Attracting younger people to join the trust is also a challenge, with over 20 per cent of the current workforce being aged 55 or over.  

Research, education and specialisms also face hurdles in ageing and poor infrastructure, the report says: “There is a large student body at all sites and with the expansion of medical student places, there should be an opportunity to attract more medical students from Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Edge Hill University and the University of Manchester. However, to help with recruitment and support the teaching of these students, new infrastructure will be paramount.”  

Financially, the new hospitals could make a substantial impact on the region. The trust is currently operating at a deficit of around £340m, with plans in place to reduce that over the coming years.  

The report is still seeking opinions from local residents and patients, and the programme will use the feedback to publish a list of solutions, which will then go through a public consultation process.  

Ultimately the report concludes that: “The impact of new hospital funding will reach beyond healthcare alone. As anchor institutions within our region, our hospitals provide healthcare to 1.8m people and employment to 40,000. With the right levels of investment, we can become a catalyst for and driver of positive change.” 

Find the full report from Lancashire and South Cumbria, here.