Health chiefs in call for public money to build new Sick Kids

HEALTH chiefs want public cash to be spent on building a new Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh following the controversy over the Royal Infirmary's private funding.

NHS Lothian has spent the past few months drawing up detailed plans for the new hospital, which is due to move from its existing Victorian base to a purpose-built home at Little France within five years. The outline business case for the hospital is due to be submitted to the Scottish Government by the end of the year.

NHS Lothian is required to investigate different sources of funding, including the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) system used for the ERI.

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However, parents are strongly opposed to this, while the SNP government also hopes to "crowd out" the number of PFI projects over time.

It is understood health chiefs also want to fund the Sick Kids through public money.

Initial estimates put the cost of moving to Little France at 60 million in 2005-6 prices, with around 23m generated by the sale of the Sciennes site.

Jackie Sansbury, NHS Lothian's director of strategic planning, said: "NHS Lothian is working in partnership with patients, their families and carers as well as the clinical staff in developing the new hospital for children and young people.

"One of the main themes to emerge from our consultation work over the last two years is that parents want to know about the method that will be used to finance the new hospital. They don't want private finance being used but would prefer a publicly-funded hospital owned by the NHS."

Youngsters, parents and members of the public have all been involved in shaping the designs.

There are likely to be a large number of single rooms - to comply with new national guidance - however, traditional wards will also be created after youngsters said they liked to have company.

The new hospital will also cater for 14-to-16-year-olds for the first time, with a special adolescent unit - complete with a chill-out zone - to be created. Youngsters aged 16 to 18 will have the choice of being treated at the Sick Kids or the neighbouring ERI.

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Other details set to be incorporated in the plans include landscaped gardens, access to computers for e-mail, and "hotel" accommodation for parents.

The Royal Hospital for Sick Children has been based in its existing dilapidated buildings in Sciennes since 1895. Little France has always been the favoured site for any new hospital because the ERI and Simpsons Maternity Unit are based there.

Isabel McCallum, clinical director of the Sick Kids reprovision project, said: "The feedback is proving invaluable in shaping the emerging vision of what a new hospital for children and young people should be providing after 2012, our planned opening date.

"Our plans include setting up specific adolescent facilities, which may also have quiet spaces away from the bustle of a ward.

"Access to the outdoors and having lots of natural light has also emerged as a priority, as has providing somewhere comfortable for parents to stay, or go when children are in hospital.

"We are currently planning for the new hospital to have at least half of its beds in single rooms, with the remainder in flexible areas. People are telling us they like ward spaces."