The trust which runs the Royal Lancaster Infirmary is to be given a share of newly-announced government cash to develop plans for new hospital facilities in the region.
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) is one of 21 trusts which will share £100m in so-called “seed funding” to draw up business cases for a total of 34 hospitals which would be built between 2025 and 2030 – some of which could take the form of gutting and entirely refurbishing existing sites.
It is not clear whether there are any guarantees to provide the necessary funding for the new buildings should the business cases be accepted.
The cash comes as part of a new Health Infrastructure Plan launched by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock this week.
The plan’s approach aims to ensure the health service will have world class facilities for patients and staff for the long term.
It sets out a long-term programme of investment in health infrastructure, including capital to build new hospitals, modernise the primary care estate, invest in new diagnostics and technology, and help eradicate critical safety issues in the NHS estate.
At the centre of this plan is a new hospital building programme, which the government has launched with a £2.7bn investment that gives six large hospitals the funding to go ahead now, aiming to deliver by 2025.
A further 21 schemes – of which Morecambe Bay is one – have been given the go-ahead with the seed funding they need to develop their business cases, with the aim of delivering between 2025 and 2030, subject to business case approvals.
UHMBT chief executive Aaron Cummins said: “I am delighted to have received the news that the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust is receiving much needed investment.
“I’m particularly pleased for patients and our hard working colleagues who do their very best, day-in day-out, often in stressful, complex and emotional circumstances.
“I am also very pleased that this investment will assist local communities receive care in an environment fit for modern day healthcare.
“Healthcare, in my opinion, is not just about bricks and mortar but about people: those who work in healthcare and those who are cared for. This investment will further assist the Trust cement its ambition to be a great place to work and a great place to be cared for.
“We need hospital buildings that work for us and not the other way around – our local populations deserve the very best and this will certainly help us take a giant step towards this on a more consistent basis.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Department of Health.”
The government has said that its broader proposal for a total of 40 new or wholly renovated hospitals would cost £13bn.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described it as “the biggest hospital building programme in a generation”.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers – which represents NHS trusts – said that it was sensible to allocate funding for planning the projects in order to ensure that the more significant sums needed for the new facilities themselves are well spent.
But he warned that the cash available for schemes after 2025 was “less definitive” than that committed to the half a dozen trusts receiving allocations imminently.
“Clearly, given these [other] schemes are five years plus away, there is a much greater chance their funding might disappear [or] not get allocated.” he said.
“It’s much more difficult to resile from a Treasury Red Book commitment than a press release from party conference time.
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said: “For many months I have been lobbying the Health Secretary for major improvements to our local hospital the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
“[This] announcement gives the green light to start what will end up as half a billion pound project of improvements.
“Our hospital buildings have been crying out for investment to build on the fantastic work of both the staff and the management team getting our Trust out of special measures. We will soon have the hospital facilities that this area deserves, and I am so grateful to Matt Hancock for backing me and my area and allocating me this funding.”