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New Princess Alexandra Hospital to offer single en-suite rooms for every in-patient – but site purchase and planning application still to be finalised.

The new Princess Alexandra Hospital is set to provide individual rooms and en-suite bathrooms for every in-patient.

The project is part of the Government’s December 2019 General Election manifesto pledge to build 40 new hospitals in England by 2030 at a cost of more than £20 billion.

Michael Meredith, director of strategy and estates at the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT), hoped that deadline could be achieved for the new health campus planned near the new M11 junction 7a – though purchase of the proposed site and a planning application have yet to be finalised.

Princess Alexandra Hospital design
Princess Alexandra Hospital design

However, he said aligning projects across the country had slowed progress for now, with the original opening date of 2025 having slipped by five years.

The new PAH will replace the ageing 1960s buildings at Hamstel Road with a Hospital 2.0 blueprint - a standardised design which aims to optimise layout and decrease construction time while reducing costs through economies of scale.

For example, 1,000 different types of doors across the estate have been rationalised to just 26 across all 40 hospitals in the programme and en-suite bathrooms for each single room can be fabricated off-site to a standard design and dropped into place.

Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow
Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow

Mr Meredith said there were many benefits to the approach, which currently means that PAHT’s original proposal to have 70% single rooms has been revised to 100%.

It follows the example set by the Royal Liverpool, which opened six months ago and has, Mr Meredith said, already seen significant benefits in patient experience and the ability of the hospital to work more efficiently.

Currently, the new PAH is expected to have around 555 beds in total with an increase of 10% in general acute beds - those you would see on most wards.

Mr Meredith said there were good reasons to believe that patient recovery times would be better with single rooms and there were clear benefits for infection control.

Michael Meredith, director of strategy and estates at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
Michael Meredith, director of strategy and estates at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust

However, there will be different demands on staffing as nurses monitor single rooms rather than four-bed bays and cleaning crews tackle individual rather than communal toilets and washing facilities.

He said: “If hospitals are all designed in the same way, then it makes it really easy for staff to move between hospitals or work in different facilities… it’s better for staff and it's much better from a safety perspective as well. So it has some real benefits.

“But of course, being part of that [standardised design process] means we've slowed down a little bit so our original opening date was 2025. That moved to 2028 and our target date at the moment is looking at 2030.”

Mr Meredith said that another aspect of being part of a national construction programme was the availability of contractors to work on such major infrastructure projects.

He said around 10 of the 40 hospitals were similar in size and scope to PAHT’s plans and it was not yet clear where Harlow’s scheme would sit in that schedule.

In the meantime, he confirmed that purchase of the proposed site and a planning application were yet to be finalised.

“It’s all moving in the right direction as part of this complex project with various aspects to align,” he said.

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