£27m bill to patch up Western General Hospital for four years

The cancer centre at Western General Hospital. Picture: Neil Hanna
The cancer centre at Western General Hospital. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A MASSIVE £27 million is to be spent “patching up” part of Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital for four years before a replacement cancer centre can be built.

Facilities at the hospital’s current cancer centre have been judged not fit for purpose – but the planned £300m replacement, which will serve the whole of south-east Scotland, will not open before 2025.

Work is expected to start imminently on refurbishment of the existing centre – extending the haematology and oncology areas and creating a new renal unit – with the work due for completion in 2021.

Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said it looked as if there was no alternative to carrying out the upgrade, but he criticised a failure to plan ahead to have the new centre ready earlier.

He said: “I think they’re at the point where if there’s no replacement there has to be this refurbishment work, but it does feel like good money after bad.

“It’s a significant amount of money just to patch up a building while waiting for a new one. This is £27m having to be spent because there has not been proper planning for the future.

“We need a lot of answers from the health board and the Scottish Government – and I think Audit Scotland might want to look at the value for money of what they have been doing.”

Mr Briggs said he had received letters from patients praising the treatment and the staff at the Western General’s cancer centre but voicing disappointment at the state of the fabric of the building.

He said: “We want a long-term replacement, but given that proper planning has not taken place we now need to see the current one refurbished.

“It has been clear for some time that it’s not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced.

“But it’s only now people are starting to get their heads around how they’re going to fund it and the timescales.”

The issue of a replacement centre was raised at the Scottish Parliament’s health committee in January, when Christine McLaughlin, director of health finance for the Scottish Government, said a new cancer centre based in Lothian to serve south-east Scotland was among large investments which might be coming up “over the next five to ten years”.

A construction consortium made up of Robertson and FES has been appointed to carry out the refurbishment.

Chris Stirling, NHS Lothian’s site director for the Western General, said: “We are excited to be moving forward with these projects to improve the physical environment for our patients to enhance their treatment.

“NHS Lothian has committed to the long term future of the Cancer Centre on the Western General Hospital.

“The works to refurbish oncology and haematology services, along with creating a new renal dialysis unit, will give our patients and staff the clinical space they deserve.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Cancer is a priority for the Scottish Government and we have made it very clear to all health boards that patients suspected of having the disease must be seen as quickly as possible.

“We are working with NHS Lothian on planning a specialist cancer care centre for the south east of Scotland and we will make the necessary investments to ensure that it is delivered.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com