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01.02.13

Bringing the country's leading orthopaedic hospital into the 21st century

Source: National Health Executive Jan/Feb 2013

Professor Tim Briggs, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at RNOH and its director of strategy and external affairs, explains the hospital’s vision for the future.

As one of the UK’s leading specialist hospitals, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) is prominent nationally and internationally as a provider of orthopaedic and musculo-skeletal patient care, teaching and research.

We deliver world-class services, with a dedicated team of staff, working in a physical environment that does not refl ect the quality of care provided (see images). The physical fabric of the site and its facilities requires a major overhaul to enable it to meet the needs of patients in the 21st century.

In December the RNOH submitted a major planning application to the London Borough of Harrow to redevelop its estate. The current proposals follow years of false-starts in efforts to modernise the site. Anyone who has visited the hospital will need little convincing of the need to rebuild. Every health minister who has visited RNOH in recent times has acknowledged the poor state of the existing facilities and the need to redevelop the hospital on the Stanmore site.

Some of the buildings are more than 100 years old; many are aged, ineffi cient and outdated for modern clinical practice. They include a number of old huts and portable cabins that were originally intended for temporary use in World War II.

Proposals to redevelop the site have been considered for more than three decades, during which time a series of reviews concluded that retaining the expertise in one place offers the best outcomes for patients. The NHS is now aware of the benefi ts of specialist hospitals to the NHS in terms of patient care, teaching and research.

Planning permission for the site was originally granted in 2007 by the London Borough of Harrow and renewed in 2010 for a diverse mix of hospital, residential and educational uses. However, new planning permission is required as the existing permissions no longer safeguard the future, or meet the aspirations of the RNOH.

This is a unique opportunity for us to provide new, state-of-the-art wards, accommodation units for parents and children, improved staff accommodation, a private patients’ unit and residential units.

Having worked at the RNOH for 21 years I have seen fi rst-hand the fantastic work that we deliver as a team and I am very proud of the achievements we have made. When Professor Sir John Temple conducted an independent review of the RNOH in 2006 his conclusion was that it was a ‘jewel in the crown of the NHS’. It is vital that these plans go ahead to ensure that we are able to continue to deliver these world class services.

To reach this stage we have undergone extensive consultation with stakeholder groups and the local community. The plans that have been submitted have been carefully considered and are fi nancially and clinically sustainable. They will mean a sensitive and sustainable redevelopment of the hospital’s Green Belt site. Funding for the redevelopment will come from multiple sources – cash sources generated through the trust’s annual NHS and private patient income, land sale receipts, borrowing available under the trust’s proposed Foundation Trust status from April 2014, funding from the private sector to build new private patient facilities and charitable donations.

Central to the redevelopment are the direct benefits it will bring to the patient environment. A good example of this is the proposed new Children and Young People’s Centre. Whilst many associate orthopaedic care with older patients, the RNOH treats more than 8,000 children and young people a year. This includes surgery for congenital limb abnormalities, treatment for bone cancer and spinal deformities. The new Centre will be crucial to the future of orthopaedic services for children and will ensure children can fi nally be treated in facilities that match the high-quality care provided.

Despite the outdated facilities, the RNOH continues to play a unique role in providing high quality, specialist care for patients with some of the most complex orthopaedic and musculo-skeletal conditions.

It also plays a major role in teaching and research; we are responsible for training 20% of all future orthopaedic surgeons in the UK. Such expertise needs to be protected and celebrated. And that is why this redevelopment must go ahead.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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