Bath’s Royal United Hospital is racing to secure up to £450million in funding promised by the prime minister.
The “once-in-a-generation” opportunity will help it fund the Dyson Cancer Centre, build a new midwifery unit and clear the £50million maintenance backlog.
Boris Johnson made a manifesto pledge to build 40 new hospitals and the RUH was one of 21 trusts to be selected for the second round of the £3.7billion Health Infrastructure Programme.
Simon Cook, who leads on the programme for the trust, said there was “nothing definite” about the £450million allocation and it could face stiff competition.
He told councillors on 19th January: “Our focus is to make sure what we’re asking for is something that’s based on a robust clinical model, it’s the right thing for our population, that tackles the needs of the estate.
“There’s a significant backlog of renewal required on the Combe Park site that needs to be addressed. We’re keen to put a case that’s as compelling as possible.
“We see this as being in competition. We have no complacency at all about the £450million, there’s nothing definite about that.
“The demand for money is probably going to exceed the money available. The sooner we get to that table with our strong business case the better.”
The RUH is waiting for final approval for the Dyson Cancer Centre, with construction due to start next month ahead of an opening date in 2023.
It plans to put £42million of its allocation towards construction, with the remaining £9million made up through charitable donations.
Mr Cook said: “The next thing is the alongside midwifery unit. That’s another development we’ll be looking to after the cancer centre.
“These are the first fruit of the HIP2 programme. In parallel with this we’re defining the future requirement in our strategic outline case.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. This will be much-needed investment not just to the NHS but to the local economy.
“This is a catalyst for change in how we deliver health and care.”
Cllr Alison Born asked if the coronavirus would change the approach taken by the RUH.
“The NHS for years has been reducing its bed numbers. In a way those chickens came home to roost with Covid, because we discovered we’re under-bedded for a pandemic,” she said.
“Do you think that’s going to change your thinking for the future shape of the service?”
Mr Cook said the NHS had reduced the number of beds spaces over the last 20 years amid a shift to care in the community, which he said was in the best interests of patients.
He added: “The main constraint at the moment is not beds, it’s staff. We have Nightingale hospitals but we haven’t got the staff to use them for the intention they were designed.
“On the one hand we want to be really efficient, we don’t want to be wasting resources and having unnecessary beds, but at the same time we need to be able to respond.”
He said the trust would engage with the public on the model of care, but added: “This is about a balance of getting something that’s directionally right but won’t be completely precise. If we wait to get it perfect, everyone else will have gone past us and there will be no money left.”
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter