'Brilliant news' for Cromer Hospital

A long-awaited new hospital for Cromer will be bigger and better than planned after health chiefs decided to plough an extra £12m into the project.It means the new unit will be a £26m project instead of a £14m scheme, which was in danger of having its facilities trimmed back by rising building costs.

North Norfolk's planned new hospital at Cromer has been given a major shot in the arm, after health chiefs almost doubled the price tag for the project.

The long-awaited rebuild will now be a £26m scheme instead of the £14m scheme the area was expecting after years of debate and delays.

Coming soon after the county health authority announced plans for an £8m new hospital at North Walsham and £1.2m health complex for Aylsham it brings the investment in health services in North Norfolk over the next few to more than £35m.

And there were reassurances the latest change would not hold up progress of the hospital which should be open by the spring of 2011.

The funding boost has come about through the extra financial freedom enjoyed by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which runs the seaside satellite unit, since it switched to foundation trust status in May.

The new hospital, on the site of the existing one, will include two general anaesthetic operating theatres, along with expanded diagnostics and therapies which were not included in the last set of plans on the table.

Most Read

The expansion means operations such as knee diagnostics and skin cancers could be carried out, along with mammograms, and bone density scans, plus a range of therapies including physio and occupational.

There will however still be no overnight bed wards, with anyone unable to return home after a day procedure being transferred to Norwich.

Hospital friends group chairman Mary Northway said the announcement was “brilliant news” - particularly for elderly patients who would be saved long trips to Norwich for treatment.

Cromer was expecting to get a £14m rebuild, using the bulk of the legacy left by widow Sagle Bernstein in 2000, with contractors moving on to the existing Mill Road site in the autumn.

But N&N acting chief executive Anna Dugdale said they realised after becoming a foundation they might be “missing a trick” - and that the new financial freedom meant they could “think the unthinkable.”

Rising costs meant some of the previous plans were being squeezed, so the additional funding was ploughed into the project from the trust's reinvestment money including the £5m profit made last year.

Chairman David Prior said it was the biggest single strategic investment by the N&N since the £229m main hospital, and fitted in with the aim to provide something “tip top” for Cromer.

It was not only good news for the people of North Norfolk, but for the county as a whole because it would relieve pressures on the N&N.

He stressed however that the project would not be possible without the huge generosity of Mrs Bernstein. Her legacy was originally £11.4m but after investment was now worth £13.3m.

Staff at Cromer were notified of the new plans on Monday. Planning permission will be sought this autumn, before which there would be further public meeting to outline the detailed proposals.

Site works would begin the following May with completion at the end of 2010 or early 2011, with a spring opening.

Mrs Dugdale said they were working hard to try to keep to the original timescale, realising that after years of discussion it was important to “get on with it.”

Local MP, Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat's health spokesman, said was also delighted with the “major advance” of having state-of-the-art medical facilities in North Norfolk.