Work has started on a new £2.5 million state-of-the-art operating theatre at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI).
The new theatre is being built to provide capacity while existing operating theatres at the RLI are being refurbished and upgraded to meet exacting modern standards.
Featuring the latest design and technology, the creation of the new theatre will mean that University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) can continue to conduct operations during the refurbishment work.
The new theatre will result in an enhanced experience for patients and a greatly improved working environment for staff. It will be put in place with a large crane which means the project will be quicker to undertake. Design exhibitions will be arranged in due course to show the overall theatre improvements.
The initial building work to prepare the RLI site will start on Monday, March 2, 2020 and the sections of the building will be brought onto the site on the weekend of Saturday, May 23, 2020. Piling work will start on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and the estimated hand-over date from the contractors to the Trust is Friday, June 26, 2020. Some minor preparatory work is already taking place on site.
The building work is being done as part of a £34 million capital loan from NHS Improvement and NHS England (NHS I &E) and the main contractors are ModuleCo for the build and F Parkinson Ltd for the enabling works.
Danny Bakey, Deputy Associate Director of Operations for the Critical Care and Surgical Care Group at UHMBT, said: “This is an exciting development which will result in an improved environment for patients and at the end of the refurbishment work the theatre can be used to provide additional capacity.
“The theatre will give us much more flexibility upon completion of the renovations and it will have a life-span of around 20 years. It will provide facilities that are fit for the 21st Century and will deliver a better journey for our patients.”
Due to the ageing estate in Day Care Theatres at RLI, UHMBT is currently transferring activity to the Westmorland General Hospital (WGH) in Kendal where there are plans to increase capacity for elective (planned) surgery. The remaining Day Case Theatre space at the RLI will be used as a ward treatment room for minor treatments.
A temporary Vanguard mobile operating theatre is opening in Kendal on April 13, 2020, to deal with the increase in elective surgery. Another temporary Vanguard theatre for elective surgery will open at WGH in July 2020. In 2019 one of the Kendal theatres was renovated to a modern standard and the second Vanguard theatre will enable the refurbishment of the remaining theatres.
Danny said: “Patients who require a surgical procedure at the RLI will still be able to have their operation there if it is deemed clinically necessary but the majority of day case elective surgery will now take place in Kendal. The advantage is that operations in Kendal are far less likely to be cancelled due to emergency A&E or trauma cases taking priority.”
At the end of the construction process there will be seven operating theatres in Lancaster – five main theatres and two theatres in the Women’s Unit.
Danny added: “We will not be losing any services. We are just transferring some of the elective surgery to Kendal to reduce delays and to make the service more sustainable. At Kendal people can usually be operated on sooner because there isn’t the pressure from A&E with people needing to be treated urgently and planned operations occasionally having to be rescheduled.”
The new theatre at the RLI, which will be on ‘stilts’ and will be sited between the Cardiac Centre and the existing operating theatres, will be built to last for many years and will provide extra capacity when the other theatres have been upgraded. A colourful mural will be created on one side of the new theatre as it will face the RLI Children’s Ward.
When the crane and sections of the building are brought onto the RLI site on the weekend of May 23 to 24 there will be short on-site traffic delays. Traffic will be managed at these times by the Trust’s Capital Services Team and Car Parking Teams.
Access to adjacent wards and buildings will not be affected as the building work will be self-contained. There is expected to be some noise from the piling and construction work from March 24 for around two weeks. The Trust’s Capital Services Team has a system in place if the construction work needs to be halted briefly due to noise or any other reason. When the crane is on site the North West Air Ambulance (NWAA) will be temporarily redirected by Trust managers to other hospital sites.
The UHMBT surgical management team has been working with staff to ensure that anyone affected by the changes can discuss any concerns. There will not be any cuts to staffing and surgical posts are currently being advertised.
Mark Hampton, Capital Services Manager for UHMBT, said: “We are investing £2.5 million in the ‘decanting theatre’, which is built in modules, so that we can ensure our other theatres meet modern standards.
“Everything will be replaced in our older theatres and we are currently working on the costings for this work. The new theatre will have the best technology on site and will be compliant with the latest regulations.
“It would have cost the same to build a more traditional structure but the construction work would have taken longer so the overall cost would have been higher. The modular theatre will be on ‘stilts’ so that the mechanical plant/machinery can be situated underneath the building. This will reduce the overall height of the building.
“The idea of a modular build is that ModuleCo will do as much work off-site as possible. This is called a ‘factory first’ approach. The modular building will have a long life span.”
‘Foluke Ajayi, Chief Operating Officer for UHMBT, said: “We are delighted that the new theatre is being built at the RLI and that we will be able to create a greatly enhanced experience for patients who come to us for surgical care.
“The theatre will enable us to retain our operating capacity while this important upgrading work is taking place.
“By the end of the process we will have facilities to ensure the best possible care and treatment.”