With the first stage of a £19 million project to turn Lister Hospital’s accident and emergency department into a state-of-the-art facility now complete, Comet reporter Nick Gill visited the Stevenage hospital for a tour.

The Comet: An ambulance outside the new wing of the Lister Emergency DepartmentAn ambulance outside the new wing of the Lister Emergency Department (Image: Archant)

Despite a few suspected breaks which turned out to be nothing more than bruising, I’m fortunate enough to say I’ve never had to use A&E for a real emergency.

Nevertheless I’m familiar with the layout and entrance, so I imagine I’m not the only one who will have to get used to changes that have been in place for just over a month.

During my visit to the Lister Emergency Department, as it is now called, it was explained how all patients – barring children – must now report to a desk in a new building adjacent to the old entrance.

After a brief assessment, patients either remain in the building if their condition is considered to be potentially life-threatening, or are moved to a waiting room situated elsewhere inside the old building.

“Obviously for people who are known to the site and have lived in the area for years, you would naturally go to the old unit, but you will be sent to the new unit to book in,” said the department’s general manager Jennifer Kearney.

“It’s working fine at the moment but it’s not ideal as we’re in a misuse phase, so it’s not the final project.”

Dr Kearney said the waiting areas are smaller than the hospital would like, but stressed that this is only a temporary measure while further redevelopment work takes place.

What is already in place within the new build is a spacious resuscitation area for those in a serious condition, which includes a moveable X-ray machine mounted on tracks on the ceiling.

About the new facilities, Dr Kearney said: “The resus area is state-of-the-art. We’ve got radiology facilities in the unit so patients don’t have to be moved – if you’re critically unwell you can have all your diagnostics done at your bedside.

“You’ve got natural light flowing into resus and all the major bays in the new unit. We didn’t have that before so you didn’t know what time of day it was. It might sound like something quite simple, but for staff and patients it’s really quite important.

“The old unit was cramped, overcrowded, and the areas were small. The sheer size of one bay is probably the space we would have had for two or three trolleys in the old build, and now you can get a whole team around a patient who is critically unwell. It’s so much better.”

Further renovation work overseen by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust is currently ongoing in the east side of the old unit and is due for completion in March.

The overall project, which will see both buildings joined together, is earmarked for completion in October 2014.

The Trust has also revealed this week that a £18.6 million two-storey ward block and a £20.5 million theatre and endoscopy block are on track to open to patients at Lister Hospital by the end of 2014.