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Planning permission granted for new 32-bed ward at West Suffolk Hospital

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A new 32-bed ward is to be built at West Suffolk Hospital to maintain services while urgent repair work takes place.

West Suffolk Council granted planning permission shortly before Christmas for the Bury St Edmunds hospital to create a single-storey extension to the existing facility which will form a ‘decant ward’ – bed space for patients and staff to move into to allow healthcare to continue uninterrupted while maintenance work takes place at other wards.

The hospital said it will have 32 beds and hopes it will be ready by summer 2021.

West Suffolk Hospital and Hardwick Manor. Picture: Will Finch/West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
West Suffolk Hospital and Hardwick Manor. Picture: Will Finch/West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

A spokesman from West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our long term plan is to build a new healthcare campus for Bury St Edmunds but while that work takes place we need to maintain the existing West Suffolk Hospital building, which is now more than 45-years-old.

“This new decant ward will help us minimise disruption to patients while we carry out maintenance work in the current building.

“The new ward is designed as a modular structure which means it has the potential to both be put in place quickly – hopefully by the summer – and also to be moved and re-used in the future.”

While the hospital is due to move to a new facility being constructed at the nearby Hardwick Manor, that scheme is not likely to be completed until after 2025, meaning some essential maintenance work is needed to maintain the existing hospital.

According to the hospital’s report submitted to planners, the roofing planks have exceeded their original life expectancy and 'their potential failure has become an increasingly important safety issue for the trust'.

It added: “The work required to survey all the planks, with consequential remedial work as required, will necessitate the complete clearance of a ward for a substantial period before it can be decorated and cleaned ready for reoccupation.

“Currently the trust’s only option would be to use an existing ward as a decant ward, but this would only be possible for eight months of the year at best, as this ward would be used for the winter pressures escalation strategy.

“In order to escalate the pace of the remedial work in a manner that does not compromise the treatment of in patients, the trust would need a decant ward. As this is not available, it is necessary to build a new ward accommodation.”

A start date for work has not yet been confirmed.

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