Costa Coffee leads change at Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work - Credit: Archant

But by September, when Huntingdon’s infirmary reaches its 30th birthday, visitors, patients and staff will be sipping the chain’s now familiar brews in a revamped entrance area.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work - Credit: Archant

Work starts next week on the introduction of a Costa, intended to help create “a more positive and welcoming first impression”.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work, Tony Summerlin, Project Design Manager

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work, Tony Summerlin, Project Design Manager - Credit: Archant

The facelift, being overseen by Circle, the private healthcare company responsible for running the hospital, will also see the addition of an Amigo convenience store. The new features, which could be in place as early as July, will replace the Foresters Cafe and WRVS shop, with current cafe staff being given the option to transfer.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work

Hinchingbrooke Hospital building work - Credit: Archant

Hospital volunteers are to become ‘meet and greeters’ and a programme of customer service training is in the pipeline. Seating in reception will be replaced, the police interview room and fracture clinic moved and the charity shop relocated.

Changes already underway include an overhaul of corridors, due to be finished in August, with new lighting, flooring, ceilings and signs being fitted, alongside new fire alarms, a swipe-card security system and digital CCTV. Community artwork will adorn the walls.

The previously cramped radiology department has been altered and now has a larger waiting area and a new reception.

Outside, work on the front of the hospital is almost complete. Timber cladding has been fitted, rotting walls repaired and draughty single-glazed windows replaced with double glazing.

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A massive 700 tonnes of soil from a mound obscuring the view of the main entrance, which people had complained was hard to find, has been removed. New turf has been laid and a circular concrete area will become home to a sculpture for much of the year and a Christmas tree during the festive season.

New signs for the main entrance, the physio block and A&E, now known as the emergency department, were due to go up this week.

Inside, £300,000 has been spent on moving IT, finance, education and research and development departments from the front of the building to the back.

The space they filled will be replaced with a £2.4million critical care centre. According to Mark Cammies, estates and facilities director, the work will start in October and take nearly six months to complete resulting in “an absolute cutting edge department”.

In the near future, the 300-space main staff car park is to be sold for housing, up to 50 new homes, with the profit being ploughed back into Hinchingbrooke. To meet the shortfall in spaces, already estimated to be between 50 and 70, other parking areas will be introduced, including the possibility of an extra level on the visitor car park.

Looking further ahead, accommodation for nurses and junior doctors, a mix of one, two and three-bedroom homes which have suffered from lack of investment, will be rejuvenated.

There is already a new library, used by staff, trainee doctors and university students, which will eventually be part of a ‘health campus’ for community activities and caring for older people.

In total, Circle will have spent £5m this year on revamping the hospital and another £4m by the end of 2014/15. The expenditure was necessary, said Mr Cammies, due to lack of investment under the NHS and a backlog of maintenance it inherited when it took over last February, no better demonstrated than when rainwater started pouring through the roof two months later.

“I came in on a Sunday and in the maternity unit there was water coming in everywhere,” said Mr Cammies. “We were having to move people around to avoid leaks.”

Making the structure wind and water tight was identified as one of Circle’s priorities and £1m was secured from the Department of Health for the new roof.

Mr Cammies stressed that the money being invested was from Circle’s capital budget, which is separate from funding used for day-to-day spending such as staff wages.

“These monies are targeted at assets and building improvements and cannot be used for hospital staffing, so we are focusing on making the physical experience at Hinchingbrooke hospital the best it can be.”