AN INDEPENDENT panel from the Department of Health has praised the efforts of the team behind the £219m redevelopment of St Helier Hospital in Surrey.
The approval follows an independent review which involved detailed interviews with a wide range of staff working on the multi-million project, assessing the progress of the scheme and the likelihood of success.
On completion of the exercise, a report was issued which noted that significant progress has been made since the last review in October 2009. In particular, the expert team commented favourably on the trust's plans for relocating staff and services while building work takes place and reserved special praise for the way in which the project is being managed.
The money we are going to spend on the hospital is the single biggest investment in the local NHS for a generation and there's still a lot to prepare before the builders and bulldozers come on site
Mathew Hopkins, chief executive of Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Very few major projects of this size and complexity get such a high level of endorsement at this stage. This is a fantastic result and goes to show just how much work is going on behind the scenes.
"The money we are going to spend on the hospital is the single biggest investment in the local NHS for a generation and there's still a lot to prepare before the builders and bulldozers come on site. However, I hope the feedback from the Department of Health team will reassure local people and patients that we are moving forward with the project as quickly and as thoroughly as we possibly can."
As well as interviewing staff working on the project, the review team also met with GPs, local NHS organisations and patients.
Tim Wilkins, project director for the redevelopment, said: "At the moment we are carefully modeling exactly where our patients and staff will be located when the JCBs arrive. For patients, this involves agreeing where they will be treated, how they will get there, making sure we have the right facilities and equipment, and that it's as easy as possible for them.
"In the part of St Helier Hospital which is being demolished we have residential accommodation for our doctors and nurses, offices for our administrative teams and busy cardiology, audiology and skin cancer clinics, so this is not as simple as it might sound."
Under the plans, £127m is being spent on a new hospital building, with £40m going towards upgrading the remainder of the site. A further £17m will pay for a new local care centre and the work will also include a new pharmacy department and multi-storey car park.