FEARS have been raised that vital health services will be disrupted over the next five years as the Capital’s flagship hospital becomes a building site.
The initial phases of major work on land around the Royal Infirmary at Little France are under way to prepare for the new Sick Kids Hospital, which is expected to open in 2017.
The upheaval, which will increase over the coming months and years, will see changes to roads, car parks, preparation for a new link from the existing A&E department to the new hospital, rerouting of sewers and upgrading of flood defences.
Construction of a medical gases plant has started, while internal projects at the existing Royal Infirmary include the creation of 70 new beds and a new renal and transplant high-dependency unit.
Health bosses have admitted that patients and staff could be put at risk and have also acknowledged that confusion could arise through changes to the road layouts and parking. Routes for ambulances will be altered, as will patient and visitor access areas.
NHS Lothian has set up a management group, which also includes Edinburgh University and PFI partner Consort, to oversee the vast revamp.
But Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack warned there was no room for error given the scale of the construction.
She said: “This is clearly a huge, complex project involving major works at the ERI. It’s clear that there will need to be a big effort to ensure that vital services, in particular the day-to-day work of A&E, need to operate without any disruption even though they are beside building works.
“Given the physical scale of the ERI I hope every means of advertising is used so that people needing access to the hospital whether as patients, visitors or staff are given clear directions. Basic issues such as changes to parking or bus access need to be flagged up well in advance.”
Agreements are in place for the first phase of work, which largely focuses on external building, while negotiations are ongoing over the second phase, mainly centring on the internal changes at the ERI.
Susan Goldsmith, NHS Lothian’s director of finance, said: “We are preparing for a significant amount of development work on the Royal Infirmary campus to improve services and prepare for the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children and the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.
“These changes will deliver significant benefits for patients and staff including additional beds and assessment capacity, new state-of-the-art resuscitation facilities and a new bus terminus. Ensuring a safe environment for our patients and staff will be our priority.”