Northumbria Healthcare is investing £30 million to build of a state-of-the-art hospital in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

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The 21st-century hospital to replace the old infirmary will create 295 full-time equivalent jobs per year during the construction and operational phases, and generate more than £17million to the local economy during the build.

The project is a big part of what the trust’s sustainability agenda is about – refreshing the buildings that staff work in so they’re suitable for patients and workers, innovate where ever possible and help the local economy regenerate.

Planning permission was approved in December 2020, and since then the project team has continued to work around the clock to move to the build phase.

The trust worked in partnership with Northern Archaeological Associates to carry out an archaeological dig at the beginning of the construction project, making some significant finds, some dating back to 1100AD. The hospital site lies within the town walls constructed around 1296, but little is known about life in Berwick before this time. This site is one of the biggest that archaeologists have had the opportunity to work on in Berwick. Walls, pottery, fish bones and what is thought to be stone yards, associated with Low Greens, have been found.

Latest update - October 2022

We are very pleased to let you know that construction of Berwick’s new £30 million hospital is a step closer as additional key milestones have been reached.

We are preparing to hand over the site to our main construction partner, Merit Health, who are based in Cramlington. The first phases of demolition and archaeology work are now complete.

The existing hospital building, which currently has a much-reduced footprint, and the maternity unit, which is now also home to physiotherapy, will be demolished once the new hospital is built.

Inpatient and other services including minor injuries, oncology and outpatients continue to be provided from the hospital. Around 60 clinics are currently delivered from the infirmary every month and 50 consultants help to deliver this patient care, alongside the team that are based at the hospital.

Providing as many services as we can

Delivering appropriate patient care as close to home as possible is a top priority and we are committed to ensuring that we provide as many services as we can from our fantastic new hospital.

As part of this, we are currently in discussions about bringing new services to the hospital and further enhancing existing services including gynaecology, colposcopy, urology, audiology and ophthalmology. We are also delighted to be bringing endoscopy services back to Berwick and in preparation for this are currently training more nurse endoscopists.

We know that many patients would welcome additional services and it would significantly reduce the miles that our patients would need to travel. This is so important for sustainability too. The last two years have shown us that we can deliver excellent patient care in different ways and technology and telemedicine play a big part of this. For example, a patient could see a nurse at Berwick and discuss their treatment with a consultant at another site virtually.

Working with others

We also continue to work closely with our GPs in the local area and other healthcare colleagues to understand what additional services we should consider or what enhancements to services we should make. I want to assure everyone that we are working very hard to ensure we deliver as much patient care from Berwick as we can.

Archaeology update

As you may be aware, historically important archaeological finds meant that this element of work did take longer than anticipated. Among these finds, which have given invaluable insight into Berwick’s medieval past, were a latrine, a well and a four-metre-wide defensive wall.

Next steps and timelines

The design of the hospital is currently being finalised, in line with current planning consent. Materials needed for construction are being procured and Merit Health is preparing to start the manufacture of more than 750 pre-assembled modules (PAMs) which will form part of the inside of the new hospital. They will also manufacture more than 20 PODs, which will contain air handling units and mechanical and electrical equipment.

Berwick Hospital will be built much quicker than traditional construction using a hybrid approach. Work on site will run parallel with work being carried out to manufacture the PAMs and PODs at Merit Health’s factory in Cramlington. The initial work on site will include ground works, installing drainage and laying foundations.

The PAMs and PODs will make the 60-mile journey from Cramlington to Berwick in a sequenced approach in line with the construction and installation programme.

We expect Merit Health will begin the off-site manufacturing work before Christmas and hope to begin preparation work on site too.

Once the hospital building has been constructed, the remaining old hospital buildings will then be demolished and archaeological work in these areas will be done. The final phases of work will include building the new car park and landscaping. It is anticipated that the project will take around 18 months.

Innovation and looking after the environment

Modular construction is now a preferred method of construction and it is fantastic that we are able to use this very modern method on such an historic site.

This will be a factory-manufactured, next-generation hospital design, incorporating enhanced infection control and a zero-carbon emissions design. The trust’s focus on using an offsite manufactured approach will mean we are delivering something new and exciting together for the community of Berwick, designed and manufactured in Northumberland for the people of Northumberland.

The life-span of the building will be around 80 years, the same as a traditional build, but this approach brings significant benefits. It will take at least a year less to build the hospital, be much less disruptive for local communities and it has significant environmental benefits. Doing construction off-site also means that delays because of the weather, for example, will be avoided. This reflects our desire to embrace innovation and also demonstrates a very determined commitment to being as sustainable as possible.

Our arts strategy – an important element of the hospital construction

The trust also has an arts strategy and will continue to engage with local communities and a wide range of organisations and partners to develop this strategy. This includes how some of the archaeological finds will be showcased and how this important historical story is told, what artwork will be in the hospital and hospital grounds, working with local schools and developing additional arts and community partnerships. If you do have any feedback or comments, please do let us know by emailing brightcharity@northumbria.nhs.uk.

A well-deserved thank you

We thank our wonderful staff for all of their hard work and efforts. An important part of this project is also to ensure that our staff have a much better environment to work in and that they have the facilities they need to support their wellbeing while at work. We also thank all our stakeholders for their support and patience.

Keeping you updated

Please be assured that we will continue to keep residents and all our stakeholders updated with progress and that we will do all we can to keep any disruption to a minimum.

We are looking at ways that residents and stakeholders can see the manufacturing activity in Merit’s factory. This will include visits to the factory and also the use of various technology. We will also be planning some drop-in sessions in the new year.