Wednesday 13 February 2019

A vision for older people’s health

An ambitious vision to re-develop the former General Hospital site in the West End of Newcastle is being proposed by Newcastle University.

This follows the agreement to purchase the site for £7.47M from the current owners, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The site is currently the home of the National Institute for Health Research-funded Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre, a partnership between Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle University.

By 2040, one in seven of us will be over 75 and our ageing society has been identified as one of four Grand Challenges in the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy. The vision will address this challenge by developing and expanding the current Campus for Ageing and Vitality. The proposal is for a mixed-use development covering the 29 acre site incorporating elderly care, research facilities and a residential zone for housing and business development.

Development of the vision is being led by Newcastle University working in collaboration with Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle City Council.

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President at Newcastle University said: “Our unique position with expertise in ageing, nutrition, digital science and tech combined with the forward-thinking nature of our city partners, particularly around the challenges of supporting an ageing population, could help transform this site. This is an exciting and ambitious vision which looks to the next 10 to 15 years to ensure that we are a world-leading hot bed of innovation and creative research in the field of ageing.”

The vision for the site

The University’s vision is for the development of three zones on land stretching from Nuns Moor Road to Westgate Road and significantly develops the existing facilities for research.

To the North of the site, Newcastle University is proposing an iconic “Discovery Crucible” which would house laboratories alongside cutting edge clinics. This would allow NHS patients to be seen by experts across all disciplines and as part of University research projects, providing teams with the opportunity to learn from expertise outside their field and breed new and innovative solutions.

The central zone would encompass an innovative “spectrum of independence” test-bed development, which would provide a range of care for older people and a centre of excellence in dementia care. It could encompass a dementia-care village, as modelled in the Netherlands, a care home, intermediate care facility and assisted living such as prototype homes for older people using innovative technology to enable them to live independently.

The vision also proposes a Southerly residential zone with potential for business development encouraging small and medium sized enterprises and commercial partners as well as opportunities for creative arts.

The mixed-use development is consistent with the City Council planning framework. Plans are at an early stage and will require the relevant planning and building processes.

Dame Jackie Daniel, CEO Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This is an iconic site which has been at the heart of Newcastle’s healthcare for decades.  This ensures that local people will be among the first to benefit from world class health research, developments and innovations within the NHS and on their doorstep.  It further strengthens Newcastle’s international status as a leader in healthcare for older people, which is great news for the city.”

Chief Executive of Newcastle City Council, Pat Ritchie, said: “The City Council and Newcastle University have a strong track record of collaborating in the interests of the city. For example, with the development of the Helix site at the forefront of commercialising pioneering scientific research and attracting significant private sector investment and jobs.

“The proposed development on the former General Hospital site is a further progression of that close relationship in partnership with the Hospitals Trust which demonstrates our shared commitment to be at the forefront of innovation, creating safe environments with an integrated multi-agency approach to health and well-being to meet the needs of an ageing population.”

The existing Westgate Walk-in-Centre, a nurse-led unit for patients with minor injuries and illnesses at the South end of the site and part of Newcastle Hospitals will remain and is outside the site purchased for re-development.  Other services on site, including the Diabetes Centre will remain in place for up to three years.

It has further been agreed that Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) will continue to provide the mental health in-patient facilities on the site (the older people wards and the adult acute wards serving the population of Newcastle) while continuing to work towards the development of state-of-the-art adult acute mental health facilities on the St. Nicholas hospital site in Gosforth. Alternative options for the future of the older people’s wards are under consideration by NTW.

The proposal to acquire the site was considered and accepted by the University’s governing body, Council on Monday afternoon (11thFeb) and considered and accepted by the Board of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

History of the site

The General Hospital was originally constructed as the infirmary of the Newcastle Union Workhouse, opening in 1870. In 1948, it was renamed Newcastle General Hospital when it became part of the National Health Service.

For many years it remained the main hospital for the city managed by Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust however, most of the acute services were moved to the Royal Victoria Infirmary and the Freeman Hospital between 2008 and 2010.

Image: Artist’s impression of ‘Discovery Crucible’, with thanks to Newcastle University