NORTH TEES: Critical care facilities ‘not fit for purpose’
A TRUST chief has branded critical care facilities at an ageing Teesside hospital “not fit for purpose”.
Covid patient numbers at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust were in single figures last week as trust leaders began to turn their attention to recovering the pandemic.
But rising maintenance costs and ageing infrastructure at North Tees Hospital are still causing headaches for health bosses.
Chief executive Julie Gillon told the latest trust board how improvements to capacity in critical care and the wider hospital estate were needed.
She said: “At this point in time, we’re working in an environment which is not fit for purpose in terms of infection prevention control, or indeed isolation, a working environment, or a patient environment.
“We can’t let this go in terms of our strategic ambition for our estate – and we cannot allow no capital to come into this end of the patch from the ICS.”
The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS) is an NHS body which oversees a large area which includes Teesside.
Ms Gillon told the board the Tees Valley was under-represented in critical care capacity for the number of patients it served.
Calls for ageing North Tees to get more investment – or a completely new hospital site – have grown louder in recent years
In March, trust medical director Deepak Dwarakanath told Hartlepool councillors how staff had faced dealing with the pandemic in an “ancient” hospital building which was “past its sell-by” as a structure.
“It’s not built for modern infection control practices,” he said.
“We barely have 17% of our beds that are single rooms, so it creates a big issue with regards to separation.
“The building is the building, the staff are the people that do the stuff and look after people.
“If we don’t look after them then they can’t look after the patients – it has been a really high priority.”
The hospital, off Hardwick Road, was built in phases between 1965 and 1974.
Early proposals for a “super hospital” north of the Tees were first aired in 2003 – setting off a string of false dawns in the following decade.
Funding for a new £463m hospital at Wynyard was scrapped by the newly-elected coalition Government in 2010.
And fresh doubts over where the money for the scheme would come meant the idea was shelved once again in 2014.
Investments have come since then to upgrade parts of North Tees.
Most recently, a £3m covid package allowed improvements to the hospital’s accident and emergency department which were completed at the turn of the year.
But the structure is costing more every year to maintain.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands the hospital’s annual estate management costs have risen more than 40% in the past five years.
Health secretary Matt Hancock was asked about the prospects of a new hospital for North Tees during an election visit on Friday.
Teesside wasn’t included in a list of 40 sites unveiled in October as part of a £3.7bn package for new hospitals.
But Mr Hancock said bidding would open later this year for a further eight available slots to “rebuild or build” hospitals.
He added: “I’ve visited North Tees Hospital.
“I understand the challenges that there are there, and there are record levels of investment going into the NHS which has obviously done an amazing job in the last year and over this pandemic, so it’s on my radar.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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