New child ward is put on hold

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THE next phase of a multi-million pound project to improve children’s hospital facilities on the Fylde coast has fallen victim to massive budget cuts.

Hospital bosses have decided to put on hold plans to build a brand new children’s ward at Blackpool Victoria Hospital after announcing millions of pounds worth of savings – which also include cutting staff and closing Wesham Hospital.

The new ward formed the next phase of the hospital’s state-of-the-art Women and Children’s Unit and would have replaced outdated children’s facilities which date back to the 1930s.

But all further work on the unit has now been halted by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust until at least next year.

Robert Bell, the trust’s director of facilities, said: “Due to the financial situation and the need for us to make significant savings we have taken the decision to defer the final phase of the scheme until at least 2012.

“Around 80 per cent of the work on the new unit is complete and patients are already benefiting from modern and more spacious facilities. While it is regrettable that we’ve had to defer work on the final phase of the new Women and Children’s development we can reassure patients that they will continue to receive excellent services and high quality treatment.”

The news has been met by disappointment from the hospital’s League of Friends, who have already donated £500,000 towards the unit and planned to build a £1m dining and recreational facility attached to the new children’s ward.

Larry O’Hara, chairman of the League of Friends, said: “We had agreed to provide a recreational and dining facility for the children attached to the new ward. Because phase four has been put on hold that will not be built, certainly in the time-scale we had envisaged.

“There are negotiations going on as to what is the best way forward for us but we will continue to provide support to the children’s unit in whatever way we can. The last thing we will do is allow this money to fester, we will ensure it is used for the benefit of children.”

The unit was designed to bring all women’s and children’s services under one roof and already houses the neo-natal unit, new delivery suite, gynaecology and the child safeguarding centre.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “I’m very concerned about the implications not just for Blackpool but across the Fylde.

“The Women and Children’s Unit is a very important future facility given the issues we have in terms of supporting mothers and families in Blackpool.

“I am keen to ensure this is merely a short postponement, not a lengthy delay.”