Bosses say meeting new requirements will make St Helier scheme ‘unaffordable’

The NHS trust behind a major hospital redevelopment in London is worried the cost of covid and net zero obligations could make the scheme too costly to build.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS trust, which was one of six hospital trusts to be handed a share of £2.7bn by the government in 2019, has said a number of factors could make the project to redevelop St Helier Hospital “unaffordable”.

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The trust says covid and other factors will send the final bill for the hospital heading north

In a risk register prepared for the trust’s most recent board meeting it said: “Since the submission of the pre-consultation business case, there have been significant changes in what needs to be incorporated within the programme, including covid design implications, build regulations such as carbon neutral, technology enabling schemes such as electronic patient records and additional optional variants such as renal.

“All of these contribute towards a much greater capital requirement. There is a risk that the final design becomes unaffordable even though it offers the necessary clinical benefits.”

> Rethinking Design: How the pandemic is transforming healthcare

The trust also raised concerns that the timetable for the project, which is expected to start construction next year and open in 2025, was adding undue pressure to the programme.

The papers said: “The timeline for the outline business case (OBC) phase of the programme is very ambitious and may not provide enough time to develop the design, costing and economic appraisal to the detail required for a high quality OBC.

“In addition, there are activities around the planning process that may not only affect the OBC phase but also the wider programme timeline in relation to final business case submission and beyond.”

The trust is not the first to raise concerns about the impact of covid on the capital cost of new-build hospital projects.

Last month, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust flagged concerns about how the impact of the pandemic would hit work on its Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General hospital initiative, another one of the projects in the first phase of the government’s health infrastructure plan.