THE first patients could be operated on in a new £80 million surgical centre at Taunton's Musgrove Park Hospital in five years' time.

The Government has approved the draft plans for the development, which will replace many of the hospital's ageing 75-year-old buildings.

The scheme will include state-of-the-art operating theatres, a critical care unit and an endoscopy suite.

The outline business case for the new build has been given the go ahead by The Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care.

Musgrove's chief medical officer Dr Stuart Walker said: "This is an important milestone in the development of our new surgical centre as it means we can now start to plan the business case in more detail.

"We are all excited to be embarking on this new phase. We know how important it is to our local population and staff that they have the best possible hospital facilities in which to provide excellent care.

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"It will mean a major improvement in the design, layout and physical environment that we care for our patients in, which will improve safety and enable our staff to work more effectively.

"This can only further improve the quality of care that our staff can give and consequently enhance the overall patient experience."

The new centre will replace many Second World War buildings, where some of the most critically ill people in Somerset are cared for.

Kier Health has been appointed to support the development the business plan and will provide the design and construction expertise.

The new surgical centre will include six endoscopy rooms, patient recovery and clinical support areas; eight operating theatres, including two interventional radiology theatres; recovery areas and clinical support; and 22 critical care beds specified for level 2 and 3 critical care patients.

The hospital trust has appointed Esther Rolinson, who has worked on several large public sector schemes nationwide, as the lead artist for the surgical centre.

Musgrove was originally built during the war as a temporary casualty evacuation hospital for the D-Day landings, but the old buildings have become increasingly difficult to maintain.

It is expected that the first patients will be cared for in the new surgical centre by early 2024.

In addition to the progress on the surgical centre, the Health Secretary recently announced an £11.5m investment in the Musgrove campus.

The plans involve moving the surgical assessment unit closer to the emergency department, allowing faster access to consultants and surgeons and quicker assessments for patients who may require emergency surgery.

The surgical admissions unit is located in 1940s ‘nightingale’ style ward accommodation that is unsuitable for modern standards of care and is some distance from the surgical operating theatres.

Locating acute assessment in the centre of the hospital will lead to better working relationships and improved efficiency between the admitting teams in the hospital and, ultimately, improve patient safety and care by ensuring patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.