Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How has the new hospital design been developed?
A. The specification for the new hospital was issued in summer 2014. It reflected both some important design principles about the look and feel of the building for patients and staff, our commitments about regeneration for the local area, and some requirements about clinical functionality. Design has developed through many hundreds of meetings with clinical staff over the preceding years. The refined design has been tested against our approval criteria, and it has also been independently tested for functionality by experts in the field.
Q. How does the new hospital design differ from City and Sandwell today?
A. It differs a lot. And of course those two hospitals differ from each other. We have a large number of wards in Midland Met. Overall half the beds are in single bedrooms. Others are in four bedded bays. This reflects patient feedback. The new build has more theatres and key pieces of diagnostic equipment than we have today. Vitally, the departments of the hospital are next to departments with similar or related functions. That adjacency is important to both the speed of care we can provide, and the teamwork we can offer. For instance, imaging is next to A&E. Theatres and intensive care are near to each other. For staff we have meeting rooms and training spaces across the building.
It is a hospital designed to be both welcoming and secure. It is built to use light and to create a patient-centred environment, but also be a great place to work. That is why we have focused on spaces to meet, to eat, to spend time learning. On the fifth floor we have the main amenity space known as The Winter Garden, which will welcome patients and visitors . Those arriving by car can utilise the car park at the base of the building and take a lift direct to that space. There is a main pedestrian entrance from street level where visitors will be welcomed and shown how to get to where they are trying to go. Entrances for A&E, for general arrivals, for maternity, and for children, are separate.
Q. What about travel and travel times?
A. The Trust is working alongside Transport for West Midlands with the expectation that a variety of main routes will come onto the site, with a turning circle inside our grounds. There is also a visitors’ car park. Pedestrian and cycle entrances are marked across the site. The Trust is working with the Local Authority Highways Teams to make sure that traffic management works for both the Trust, our patients, and for local residents, who are our neighbours. It is important to understand where services will be, and how many common NHS services will remain at City and Sandwell, whilst inpatient emergency care moves to Midland Met.
Q. Smethwick is further from where I live – why is this a good idea?
A. Emergency care needs expert teams. Travel time matters to care. For example, for stroke, services were centralised at Sandwell for people from across Sandwell and the west of Birmingham. For some people their journey to the hospital took longer. But now they can get key treatment and expert assessment once they get to the hospital much faster. And we know that that saves lives. We have also applied the same idea to interventional cardiology, which we plan to centralise at City Hospital. By having one site serving half a million people we can create the specialist teams, seven days a week that will improve outcomes.
It is really important to remember that most care does not need an emergency hospital or a bed. Primary care, including pharmacies, provide nine out of 10 contacts with patients. Now and when Midland Met opens, outpatient care will happen in the Birmingham Treatment Centre, Neptune in Tipton, at Rowley Regis, and in health centres across Birmingham. Planned surgery and diagnostic services will happen in many places, with only the most complex surgery being centralised in the new hospital.
Q. What will be left at Sandwell?
A. Lots of services, and some new ones too. An Urgent Care Centre open seven days a week seeing over 35,000 people with minor and intermediate emergency needs. A major outpatient centre able to offer adult and paediatric consultation in key specialties. A chemotherapy unit for cancer care. And short stay surgery. Our current wards will be refurbished to offer intermediate, longer stay care for people who do not need a busy acute hospital bed. And Sandwell will be the Trust’s main base, with key ancillary and support services located there. It will be our research and educational hub, and the home for many consultants as well as the Trust’s leadership team.
Q. What will be left at City on Dudley Road?
A. The Birmingham Treatment Centre houses outpatient and short stay surgery. It has a chemotherapy unit. Major imaging services will be based there, as well as key diagnostic functions for common services like respiratory illnesses. The Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre (BMEC) will stay, providing not just specialist care but regional expertise for complex conditions. And in 2014 the Trust invested over £1 million in the intermediate care unit within the Sheldon Block. These three facilities will be the heart of the new services on the site, with other land and buildings sold to help regenerate the local community in line with the plans for the area, consulted upon by Birmingham City Council.
Q. How will urgent care work?
A. A purpose built A&E, with facilities to see other professionals like GPs, will be based at Grove Lane in Midland Met. An urgent care centre will be housed within the current A&E at Sandwell Hospital. The Trust recognises the strong preference of local residents to maintain or enhance facilities like the Primary Care Assessment and Treatment Centre at Rowley Regis, but also to make sure that services provided by other organisations are integrated and coordinated, so that one NHS is on offer to local people.
Q. Will Midland Met be big enough?
A. Yes. When we open in 2024 we will have the facilities we need. Bed use over the last few years has reduced and so the change in beds in hospital is modest. There is a shift from acute beds to intermediate care beds. But in 2030, unless we change the underlying demand for care in our system, by tackling ill health, deprivation and exclusion, the new hospital and the wider system of care in our communities, will struggle to meet need.
Q. Why do we need a new hospital at all?
A. Because we struggle, and in future will struggle more, to provide seven day a week expert team based care for the sickest patients, when we are stretched across two sites. Many years ago the routine size for a major hospital covered a population of 250,000. So in our area we needed two hospitals. Medicine and our thinking about best care has changed. And a minimum of half a million people is now the basis for planning. Midland Met will bring better facilities, but it is not a project about nicer buildings. It is about improving outcomes by providing better care.
Q. If I want to know more about the new hospital what can I do?
A. Contact the Trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals, through our website at swbh.nhs.uk. Ask us a question on twitter @SWBHnhs or email firstname.lastname@example.org.