Why are we waiting for Frenchay healthcare?
A HOSPITAL campaigner wants to know why work has still not started on a new healthcare facility for Frenchay, 15 years after it was approved.
The old Frenchay Hospital closed in December 2014, as all acute services were moved to Southmead.
In the same month outline plans were approved to redevelop the 29-hectare site. with up to 490 homes, a new health and social care unit and a primary school.
But although work on the new housing is well underway, with many homes already occupied, builders have yet to break ground on the health and care complex, including rehabilitation beds and an outpatient clinic, promised for the site.
The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and South Gloucestershire Council, which took over the lead commissioning role for the site two years ago, say they are "appointing a consultant to take forward the development of the health and social care vision on the Frenchay site".
Barbara Harris, a former member of Frenchay Community Hospital Group which campaigned for hospital facilities on the site, has written to CCG chief executive Julia Ross to ask why nothing has happened.
She said: "The proposal for the new hospital at Southmead and the community hospital at Frenchay received approval in March 2005, fifteen years ago.
"The new hospital at Southmead opened in April 2014, and yet the community hospital, which was intended as an integral part of the patient pathway into and from the acute hospital at Southmead, is still awaited six years later."
Barbara said the new contract for community health services with provider Sirona, which included Frenchay, had commenced in April this year – but with nowhere at the former hospital site for the community interest company to deliver them.
She believes that, had the facilities at Frenchay been built, they could have helped with the response to COVID-19 and could have made the now-mothballed Nightingale Hospital at Ewe's Frenchay campus unnecessary.
Barbara said: "Not a clod of earth has been turned. I am now told that a real estate consultancy has yet to be appointed, so no developer has yet been procured nor a price on the land agreed. Quite why we have to repurchase the land when we already own it is beyond me. The NHS own the land and we own the NHS."
She called on the CCG to explain the delay and said the project "seemed to have fallen off the agenda".
Funding for a new hospital with 84 rehabilitation beds and 28 mental health beds was approved shortly before the 2010 election but rejected under austerity. The current plan includes 50 beds at Frenchay.
In a joint statement the CCG and council said: “The development of this site is complex, involving multiple stakeholders and partner organisations.
"However, following a slight delay as partners prioritised the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are now at the stage of appointing a consultant to take forward the development of the health and social care vision on the Frenchay site.
“We remain fully committed to developing new health and care facilities on the site and delivering this is a priority for the CCG, South Gloucestershire Council and our partners.
"The Frenchay scheme was never intended to provide accommodation for intensive care patients and therefore would not have been able to provide the critical care capacity offered by the Nightingale Hospital Bristol."
The CCG said Sirona would continue to provide inpatient rehabilitation services for South Gloucestershire in Yate and Thornbury until the new facility at Frenchay is available, as part of its ten-year contract.
Uses for Nightingale
POTENTIAL interim uses for Bristol’s pop-up Nightingale hospital are being considered while it is on standby.
Regional and national NHS bosses will need to agree on any new way forward for the “very restricted” facility, which will need extra investment to implement.
NHS England has refused to confirm the cost of creating the field hospital at the University of the West of England’s Frenchay campus, which has been estimated at between £5.4million and £16million, or what the running costs have been.
It was built in less than three weeks in April, to provide 300 intensive care beds for coronavirus patients, but was never used and was put into standby on June 30.
Professor Peter Brindle told the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group the hospital was "a very restricted facility", adding: “At the moment it’s only really capable of looking after people who are unconscious and have Covid. At the moment we don’t have any of those at all.
“Anything we want to do differently will require extra investment.
“A team is collecting ideas and business cases. We may not end up going with any of them.”
By Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service