'Much needed' women and children's hospital unit in Cornwall delayed until 2028

It is hoped work on the unit will start in the summer of 2024 Credit: LDRS

The opening of a new women and children’s hospital unit in Cornwall has been delayed until 2028.

The unit was due to be completed at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro by 2024, but the Government has asked for revised business plans to be submitted due to the increasing cost of construction.

It has been revealed that the cost of the project will top £290million.

Bosses at the Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust (RCHT) have now published an outline business case for the Truro project with the hope that the much-needed development will be approved by the Government in early 2023.

They are hoping that construction work could begin in Truro in the summer of 2024 with a view to completing the scheme in autumn 2028.

The new unit at Treliske is part of the Government’s new hospitals programme which was announced by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019. He announced £3.7billion for the scheme to build 40 “new hospitals” which included £99million for the new women and children’s unit in Cornwall.

A report addressed to Cornwall Council seeks their support for the programme, describing the new unit as a 'modern, fit for purpose environment'.

It says that the hospital's current facilities, which have been in place for more than 50 years, are in a poor condition and many of them require total replacement.

The Care Quality Commission highlighted its concerns in 2017 relating to the 'inferior quality' of the facility.

The report from RCHT also states there is around £30million of backlog maintenance which has an impact on the finances of the trust and the ability to provide new, modern services.

It said: “The poor working environment affects staff morale; compromises clinical safety and quality; and constrains the achievement of optimum clinical standards.”

It adds: “The overall programme of work to create a centrally located Women and Children’s Hospital, on the RCH (Royal Cornwall Hospital) site, also requires new permanent facilities for three services which need to move out of the footprint of the planned new building.

"Relocating pathology, pharmacy, and outpatient diagnostic cardiology into new purpose-built accommodation will bring additional benefits in terms of improved facilities for those services, as well as improved functional adjacencies to other existing services.

Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro (Treliske) is the biggest hospital in Cornwall providing emergency and specialist healthcare.

“The new main entrance to the Women and Children’s Hospital is also planned to become the new main entrance for the entire site. This will reorientate the hospital to the south and will bring patients and visitors into the centre of the site.

"This is in preference to the current entry routes to the hospital which involved several poorly located and congested entrances, and long internal journeys along busy corridors, and over multiple levels, for patients and visitors to reach their destination.”

A survey carried out by NHS Providers earlier this year found that many NHS Trusts felt that the entire national project was on “shaky ground” and that there were concerns about whether funding would be provided.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Delays nationally and mounting concern about funding mean what was billed as the biggest hospital building programme in a generation is on shaky ground.

When announced, the project was billed as 'the biggest hospital building programme in a generation'

“Hopes and expectations have been raised. Now it’s time for the government to deliver on the prime minister’s pledge. Trust leaders are deeply frustrated that the benefits they expected to be able to deliver for patients and their communities are increasingly in doubt, in some cases getting further out of reach with every day that goes by.

“This is about much more than bricks and mortar. The New Hospital Programme is a fantastic opportunity to rebuild the fabric of the NHS, providing badly needed renewal for acute, mental health, community and ambulance services.

“Failure to create a modern, comfortable and safe environment for patients where staff can provide first-class care reliably, effectively and efficiently is a missed opportunity which will cost the NHS dear for years to come.”

Cornwall Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee will consider the report when it meets today (October 12).

The total cost of the development in Truro now stands at £291.7m.

Credit: Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporting Service