N&N boss says hospital is too small to cope with demand and announces plan for “essential” new building

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Date: Aug 2014. Picture: MIKE PAGE

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Date: Aug 2014. Picture: MIKE PAGE - Credit: Mike Page

More space is needed to cope with a rapid rise of patients, the head of the region's biggest hospital has warned.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) cost the taxpayer £229m and was heralded as an example of a new era for the NHS, but the building's capacity has already been reached, according to chief executive Mark Davies.

It comes on the day fresh figures are released which will detail the increasingly high level of demand faced by hospitals last December.

Mr Davies, who this month reaches half a year in charge of the N&N trust, has made building a new care centre for non-emergency procedures and expanding the hospital's A&E department his top priorities to combat constant pressure.

'The hospital is too small for capacity,' he said.

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'We have to move with the times.'

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with this newspaper, Mr Davies also said:

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He expects the trust to record another million-pound deficit next year.

Patients stuck on wards despite being medically fit (bed-blockers) represent one of the 'biggest challenges' for hospitals.

The number of patients coming to the N&N via A&E or by ambulance is growing faster in Norfolk than nationally.

He believes the PFI deal to build the hospital was good for residents.

The planned care centre, in the form of a new building, is 'essential' to Mr Davies' plan to meet rising demand.

Although the project is in its infancy and details are sketchy, Mr Davies said he hoped the centre would double the hospital's 'ambulatory' care capacity.

Ambulatory care includes diagnosis, rehabilitation and treatment, and is given to patients who do not need a hospital bed.

Five years ago the trust carried out 63,000 day case surgery procedures annually, compared to 92,000 now, and the trust predicts that number to rise to 120,000 in the next seven years.

That growth has coincided with the trust missing the 18-week referral to treatment target since September 2014.

One effect of this is that patients are sent to private hospitals for treatment paid for by the trust, which is more expensive.

'Our main problem is day case and we're probably not going to hit the target until autumn,' Mr Davies said.

'We're developing a business case with clinicians to decide what should go in there, how big it will be, and how much it will cost.

'It's a win-win because patients can be treated much quicker, which means we can get paid for the work by commissioners.'

The hospital has already begun tackling the space problem by putting up two temporary units in December.

Mr Davies hopes to finish the planning process by the end of December, so construction can start in January 2017, and be completed in 2018.

He said the trust would aim to build a world-class facility which would help attract the extra staff required, at a time when the NHS is grappling with nursing shortages.

Once services can are moved into the new centre, more space will be freed up inside the main building, Mr Davies said.

That will help the trust expand the A&E department, known as 'the front door'.

Mr Davies said there had been a 10pc rise in people visiting A&E and 10pc rise in the number of ambulances bringing patients to the hospital, a higher rate than national figures.

Have you got a health story? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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