A NEW hospital costing up to £20 million should be open in three years’ time on the playing fields at Berwick Academy.
The site is one of five edge-of-town sites that had been under consideration by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust since 2009.
The Trust has now formally identified the 2.5 hectare parcel of land at the southern end of the Academy’s playing fields as the preferred site for the development.
A draft option agreement has been prepared between the trust and Berwick Academy, with support from Northumberland County Council, which is subject to approval from the Secretary of State for Education.
Brian Griggs, the Trust’s director of capital planning and development, said: “We are delighted to be able to work in partnership with Berwick Academy to secure a preferred site for a new hospital which will significantly improve healthcare for people in the area.
“This is a significant step forward for the development and excellent news for people in Berwick and surrounding areas.”
The new site would be accessed off the A1167 Sunnyside Bank, close to the brow of the hill. It would be completely separate from the Academy.
Dr Richard Curless, director of medicine and emergency care at the trust, added: “People in Berwick and the surrounding areas told us they wanted a new hospital when we spoke to residents a couple of years ago.
“People had differing views about where the best place for the development would be. Respondents, however, agreed it should be in a convenient location near to the A1 that is accessible by public transport and would allow for improved parking. Locating the hospital on the Academy site allows us to meet these requirements whilst also benefiting the Academy.”
The design of the new hospital is still to be decided but the trust is working on plans for a 30-bed unit with a mix of four-bed bays and single rooms with en-suite facilities.
It would retain the services offered by the existing Berwick Infirmary, with the possibility of more to follow, but the trust has ruled out an expansion of A&E and out-of-hours services.
Jim Mackey, chief executive, said: “We will try to provide as much as possible locally. There will be no expansion of emer-gency or out-of-hours services but we will look to expand the range of outpatient and diagnostic services over time.”
The agreement will also enable sporting facilities at the Academy to be enhanced. The Trust will reposition the existing two football pitches and fund significant improvements to them, ensuring they meet Sport England specifications. It will also refurbish six tennis courts.
Stephen Quinlan, head teacher of Berwick Academy, said: “We are extremely pleased to be able to support Northumbria Healthcare in its desire to provide a new hospital for Berwick and this is great news for the community, the Academy and the Trust.
“We are confident that there is ample suitable space on the remaining 34 acres for the maintenance of our superb sporting and athletic facilities and we will work with Sport England in conjunction with the Trust to ensure that the highest possible standards are achieved.”
The Trust now plans to embark on a consultation process over the next 12 months followed by a six-month tender process. An 18-month build would mean completion by summer 2015.