Demolition of Berwick Infirmary set to start in April - with work on new hospital hoped for September

Berwick Infirmary. Picture by Jane Coltman Berwick Infirmary. Picture by Jane Coltman
Berwick Infirmary. Picture by Jane Coltman
Demolition of the current Berwick Infirmary could start in April, with construction of the new hospital hoped to start in September.

However, there are concerns about the cost of the project, with forecasts suggesting that the build could run £5million over the £25million budget.

NHS bosses have set out a proposed timeline for the major project today, which includes the plans being shared with residents in March.

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A report to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s board states that a ‘substantial amount of activity’ has taken place to progress the design, which will go on show as part of engagement with the public.

Hoardings are also set to be erected around the building site in March, with demolition starting and a construction partner appointed in April, before a planning application is submitted in May.

If planning approval is granted in September, as planned, construction would then start on site that month, with a target completion date of spring 2022.

As previously revealed by the trust, departments have been moved to make way for the new build on the northern end of the existing Infirmary site.

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In relation to the costs, the report outlines that £1.5million of the £25million has been spent on the initial design work and that there ‘remain pressures to this budget as initial high-level cost forecasts for the new hospital are in the order of £30million’.

It adds: ‘Any costs associated with subsequent phases of work involving the Clock Tower or the maternity ward will be additional to this financial envelope, but could be covered in a land transfer arrangement depending on any agreed land disposal strategy.’

At the meeting, Marion Dickson, the trust’s executive director of nursing, who is leading the Berwick redevelopment project, said: “We are keeping a very close eye on the costs and that’s being reported regularly.”

The report explains that ‘a competitive procurement exercise will be undertaken to determine the most economically advantageous tender for the construction’, with the construction partner planned to be appointed in April.

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Outside the meeting, Mrs Dickson said: “We know the community is keen to see the plans for the new hospital and we will be in touch when we have a date to share these with the public in March.”

Progress on the long-awaited new facility was first announced in the autumn of 2018, but sparked a backlash as residents opposed it sharing a plot with the new leisure centre on the current Swan Centre site.

The trust, in partnership with NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), backed down on the co-location proposals and in May last year announced that the new stand-alone hospital would be built on the current Infirmary site – something which had previously been ruled out.

The trust has vowed that the new hospital will provide all the existing services, alongside additions such as endoscopy, and embrace the latest technology. It is also planned that Well Close GP surgery will be part of the new hospital.