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Royal Free Hospital to begin £25million A&E refurbishment in September

PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 May 2014

Dr Steve Shaw

Dr Steve Shaw

David Bishop

A £25million project to overhaul and double the capacity of the Royal Free Hospital's Accident and Emergency department has been given the go-ahead in a bid to cope with rising patient demand.

Existing A&E facilities at the hospital, in Pond Street, Hampstead, are set to be refurbished and expanded, with a new emergency department for children also being built.

Hospital chiefs say it’s all part of plans to ensure the hospital’s services are “future proof” and to respond to regular complaints from staff and patients about the A&E department’s “poor environment”.

The announcement comes amidst continued warnings across the NHS over the pressure being placed on emergency care.

A&E facilities at the Royal Free are almost 20 years old and designed to accommodate 60,000 admissions a year. Last year, its A&E staff had to cope with more than 90,000 admissions.

Dr Steve Shaw, divisional director of urgent care, said the new department will cater for in excess of 120,000 admissions and would bring the hospital’s emergency care “into the 21st century”.

“Our A&E department reaches all the national standards, but this redevelopment is about future proofing the services we provide,” he said.

“Across London and nationally we’re seeing an increase in the number of people using A&Es so this will ensure we’re prepared.

“As well as increased capacity, the project will also provide a state-of-the-art facility fit for our patients.”

Despite working with facilities designed to cope with a third fewer admissions, staff at the Royal Free have consistently met government targets, including those demanding that at least 95 per cent of those admitted are seen in under four hours.

A recent survey showed 88 per cent of patients would be likely, or extremely likely, to recommend the Royal Free’s A&E to a friend or a member of their family.

The hospital admitted, however, that it was concerned about negative comments it regularly received about the emergency department’s “poor environment”.

David Sloman, chief executive of the Royal Free, described the project as “hugely exciting” and said that it would ensure the best possible care for the local population.

He added: “The new A&E will also attract high calibre staff and will ensure that we continue to surpass government targets for treating emergency patients.

“Some of the negative comments we receive are about the poor environment of our emergency department. This is our chance to put that right.”

The new department – to be constructed in phases so as to ensure existing services are unaffected – will also include a new 23-hour assessment unit, a larger resuscitation area, a redevelopment of the urgent care centre and a diagnostic hub.

Construction will start in September and is expected to be finished in early 2017.

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