MAJOR changes to the NHS will see the closure of the accident and emergency department at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester.

The closure is part of the plans for a new specialist acute hospital on the edge of Basingstoke, using more than £800m in government funding.

Under the plans, the RHCH would be refurbished and a 24/7 urgent treatment centre opened.

Although the current A&E would close, many services will be retained including same-day emergency care, a planned surgery centre, Florence Portal House birthing unit and outpatients.

The potential closure of the A&E unit has been discussed for many years. In the past senior clinical staff have said they struggle to find enough staff for A&E units in both Basingstoke and Winchester.

The NHS in Hampshire has today (Thursday, November 30) published details of its proposals to invest between £700m and £900m across the county into hospital services, as it plans to launch a 14-week public consultation in December.

Those behind the project have now revealed their preferred option is to build a new hospital on land at Junction 7 of the M3 near Basingstoke, which would include the relocation of Basingstoke’s emergency department and maternity services, along with centralising some services across Hampshire.

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The plans would see the creation of a new dedicated children’s emergency department at the new hospital and an obstetrician-led birthing unit alongside a midwife-led birthing unit.

It would also include a neonatal unit to care for poorly babies preventing families from having to travel to Southampton, as well as a cancer treatment centre.

Under the plans, services such as outpatient appointments, diagnostics, therapy services, and day-care surgery would continue from the current Basingstoke hospital site, while Winchester hospital would be upgraded to have a dedicated planned surgery centre.

The public will be asked to consider three options, with the first – option 1 - building a new hospital at the current site of Basingstoke hospital, in Aldermaston Road.

However, this option would cost £948m, compared to £807m for the ‘preferred’ option 2 to build a hospital at Junction 7 of the M3.

A third option has also been added to the list, which is identical to option 2 other than having nurse-led rehabilitation beds at the current Basingstoke hospital site. This is expected to cost £860m.

Hampshire Chronicle: The three optionsOption 2 has been chosen as the preferred way forward because it would be easier to build at Junction 7 and it would place specialist and emergency care more centrally between Basingstoke and Winchester, without requiring the nursing workforce to be split across an additional site.

Alex Whitfield, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT), said: “Our exciting plans for this investment will significantly improve people’s experience of our hospitals and help with staff recruitment and retention. They will give us more modern buildings, much improved digital technology, and the opportunity to develop a hub for healthcare innovation.”

She said currently some services are duplicated at different sites, while maintenance to its ageing buildings is expected to cost more in the next 20 years than it will cost to build a brand new hospital.

“That is not taxpayer money well spent,” she said.

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Maggie MacIsaac, chief executive of NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: “This investment gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve hospital facilities and hospital services across Hampshire for decades to come.

“The money will help transform the care and treatment patients receive. The brand-new hospital at the Basingstoke hospital site or near Junction 7 of the M3, and upgraded hospital buildings at Winchester, will enable our NHS to meet the changing needs of our growing and ageing population.”

The proposals will be discussed by the ICB next week and, subject to approval, a public consultation will follow starting on December 11 and running until March 17.

It is expected that the new hospital will open by 2032. However, if option 1 is chosen to build a new hospital at the current Basingstoke site, the opening date could be later. Ms Whitfield said building a new hospital in Aldermaston Road would cause significant disruption and involve building on the car park while creating a new multi-storey car park.

Asked why this option has been included in the shortlist, Ms Whitfield said: “Option 2 is the preferred option but we might find out different information through the consultation process. It might be a variation of the options that ends up being an option. We are genuinely curious and want to hear from the public.”

If a new hospital is built at Junction 7, some of the buildings at Basingstoke hospital would remain to deliver outpatient appointments and other services, with other parts of the site made available for other uses.

The new hospital would provide specialist and emergency care, such as strokes, heart attacks, trauma, and children’s emergency care. While the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester would focus on planned operations and procedures while retaining 24/7 urgent treatment, same-day emergency care services, and midwife-led maternity services.

Dr Lara Alloway, chief medical officer at NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICB, said: “Under the proposals, both hospitals would continue to provide access to urgent treatment and same-day emergency care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, inpatient beds for general medicine and care of the elderly, and midwife-led births, as well as outpatient appointments and diagnostic tests. Both hospitals would see substantial investment under all the proposed options.”

Dr Nick Ward, interim chief medical officer at HHFT, said: “Maintaining the status quo is not an option. The simple truth is that, currently, we are not always able to provide the quality of care that we want to – some of our services are not organised to enable our hard-working staff to consistently deliver the very best care.

“These proposals make the best use of the investment we have been given and would improve hospital care for everyone in Hampshire.”

Following the public consultation, a decision will be made in 2024 as to which option to implement before detailed planning and construction takes place over the next decade.

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester, said: “Hampshire is part of the ‘New Hospitals Programme’ which promises to modernise hospital buildings across England - and that’s welcome - especially for Basingstoke which badly needs the new hospital this is all about. But modernising services across a Trust will always come with hard choices about clinical priorities, what goes where and have impact elsewhere.

“If the ICB decide to proceed to consultation with the proposals it will consider at its’ meeting on December 6, those choices will be right in front of us.

“For more than fifteen years I’ve stuck my neck out for Winchester Hospital and the important services it provides my constituents. It’s been the place for so many life events for my family too including the birth of both our children.

“My view hasn’t changed; Winchester is a fast growing city and I want to see A&E services maintained as they are today plus full consultant-led maternity services on the RHCH site. If the clinicians, who must ultimately decide, feel things can be changed in a way that provides safe and sustainable services for my constituents it’s up to them to make the clinical case.”

Danny Chambers, the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Winchester, said: "For too long Winchester’s health services have been neglected and overlooked by this Conservative government.

"News that our A&E is being shut down will worry a lot of people. Considering the new hospital is delayed by years because Conservative Ministers won't cough up the cash,  we can't have local people unable to get emergency treatment in their hour of need. 

"I'll be seeking urgent reassurances."