KGH reveals rebuild plan - but pleads with Government to provide millions more in cash

"Why should we be the left out ones?"

Tuesday, 24th November 2020, 8:19 pm

Plans to rebuild Kettering's rundown hospital have been revealed - but bosses say they need AT LEAST another £369m in funding to make sure they aren't left behind.

Currently just 20 per cent of the ageing Rothwell Road site is classed as 'fit for purpose' and the hospital has developed a once-in-a-generation five-phase plan to rebuild it on the same site, while continuing to provide services there.

Next week at a board meeting KGH chiefs are expected to decide that, at a minimum, three of those phases need to be completed to make a real difference. But that would cost about £765m - far more than the £396m Boris Johnson's Government has earmarked for them.

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How the hospital could potentially look in the future – depending on how far it can progress its plans. The picture shows a view from Rothwell Road with a new entrance to hospital. Two of the three buildings on the skyline would be dependent on additional capital.

If the Government doesn't stump the extra cash KGH can't even complete the second phase and will be left with about half a hospital which still has sub-standard facilities.

And group chief executive Simon Weldon says they will be putting pressure on ministers to make sure KGH is no longer "the forgotten place".

He told the Northants Telegraph: "For too long Kettering's hospital has been the forgotten place and I don't want it to be the forgotten place any more.

"I've been fortunate in my career to work in some fantastic places and some fantastic buildings and I don't believe that healthcare should be a postcode lottery...we should be under no illusion that around us are a number of hospitals that are being rebuilt.

An artist’s impression of what the Urgent Care Hub could look like, replacing A&E and short stay urgent care wards, with extra inpatients beds on the higher floors. This would be completed in the first phase of the development.

"Leicester has got a major cash injection, Oxford has got great buildings, Nottingham has. So why not us? Why should we be the left out ones?

"If we don't solve this problem the people who have choices about where they can go, the NHS workers, will go and work in those places. And then what happens to the people of Kettering? What happens to the people of Corby?"

Completing all five phases of the plan would cost about £1.1bn but phases four and five are currently deemed unaffordable.

If the Government provides the cash to allow the hospital to complete three phases of their plan, 83 per cent of KGH would be 'fit for purpose'. The work would take about eight years to complete.

Simon Weldon.

The hospital's current funding is made up of £46m for a new urgent care hub and £350m from the Government’s '40 new hospitals' commitment, which faced huge criticism because it was actually for rebuilds rather than new hospitals.

The cash would be used to make major changes including a brand new A&E department (part of phase one and which should be open in 2024), new assessment beds, 12 new wards, a dedicated blue light road and a new energy centre.

But Mr Weldon said that would fall way short of the new hospital people have been promised and would see patients moved between shiny new areas and old buildings not fit to provide 21st century care.

He said: "Great, we've got money. Great, we can approve plans to rebuild our A&E department.

Kettering General Hospital.

"But let's not be under any illusions that that's a new hospital, because it's not."

If KGH had the £765m it needs it would also be able to replace the majority of wards, relocate critical care, create six new operating theatres, new imaging and diagnostic facilities and refurbish retained buildings, as well as other improvements.

Mr Weldon said one of the simplest things the Government could do to help them financially would be to exclude VAT and inflation from their funding. Doing that, he said, would allow them to get to almost the end of phase two.

He revealed the pressure the hospital's old buildings have put on their ability to care for people. Some buildings are so poorly ventilated that in the summer people have to go around wards giving patients ice lollies and cold drinks and put fans on.

On Monday (November 23) the hospital was almost 100 per cent full, even before it hits its most difficult period in the thick of winter.

And Mr Weldon said that with the population growing the hospital will eventually run out of space if it isn't rebuilt - likening it to a river that is jammed or has too much water.

How the hospital would look at the end of phase three if KGH got extra cash.

He said: "Sooner or later the river bursts its banks...it puts people under almost unendurable pressure. That's what we're trying to solve as a hospital.

"Otherwise you will have a hospital that's in permanent crisis. Nobody wants that."

Governors are expect to develop a lobbying campaign in the coming weeks and months to call for more cash and people will be able to show their support through a petition.

Mr Weldon added that he hopes people in north Northamptonshire will approve of their plans to build a new A&E department and back their campaign for more cash.

Hospital chairman Alan Burns said: “£396m will sound like a lot to people, and it is. However, the cost of delivering a brand new hospital fit for the future - at the same time as continuing to provide care for our patients - is much higher.

“Assuming our business case is approved, the funds available will make a significant difference to patient and staff experience, but they will only go so far.

“Out of the five phases of redevelopment, achieving phases one to three is the minimum we are likely to recommend during the board meeting next week. However, this would require additional funding which we have not yet secured.

“Achieving phase three would mean that 83 per cent of our hospital estate becomes fit for purpose. Although more redevelopment of the site is needed, this would take Northamptonshire far closer to realising the ambition of a fully new hospital in Kettering.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We have committed to funding 40 hospitals which will be completed by 2030 and eight further schemes invited to bid for funding, with the first £3.7bn of investment confirmed for the next four years.

“Full funding for the new Kettering General Hospital will be finalised alongside their business case, which will be carefully evaluated to ensure it demonstrates best value for money for the taxpayer and meets the needs of staff and local people.”

The trust board meeting can be watched by the public online on Monday, November 30, from 10am to 1.30pm. The hospital rebuild will be discussed at about 12.45pm at https://youtu.be/xL0alNhs7zM.

- Read more about KGH's plans and campaign on our website tomorrow and in this week's edition of the Northants Telegraph