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Oxford’s main teaching hospital, John Radcliffe Hospital, plans to construct new elective theatres

The John Radcliffe Hospital has put forward plans to build seven new elective theatres to Oxford City Council’s planning authorities, in an effort to cut down on mounting waiting lists for patients.

Submitted by property management firm Carter Jonas on behalf of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the expansion consists of a new 7541m2 theatre facility building, with all requisite infrastructure and parking amenities, to be built on top of an existing staff car park. 

The submission includes seven new operating and recovery spaces, with cutting-edge hybrid facilities allowing for radiological intervention during surgery when necessary. 35 cycle parking bays will also be added to the site, although there is no information as yet where they will be built.

The proposal for the Headington site also contains plans for a link corridor connecting the new building to the hospital’s existing west wing, as well as a permanent shell space with the potential to be converted into a sterile services facility. 

This expansion, the hospital says, is sorely needed to help reduce waiting times, and speed up patients’ access to routine elective surgery through increasing recovery space capacity.

Waiting lists for NHS procedures lengthened significantly following the COVID-19 pandemic, and most remain high even 3 years on. Students in Oxford frequently complain about extensive waiting times in the hospital’s A&E department, which fell well over national NHS service standards last month; meanwhile, in July, over 76,000 patients were waiting for routine non-urgent elective surgery.  

The chief facilities officer at OUH Trust, Mark Holloway, described the scheme as at “a very early stage”, adding that the trust will “continue to review and consider all opportunities […] to help support the delivery of services for patients”.

Opposition to the hospital trust’s plans has risen from some quarters. 

Headington Heritage and Oxford Civic Society, two local campaign groups, criticised the trust’s record on housing, transport infrastructure, and the environment, arguing that the proposal will worsen housing needs in the city and increase road congestion through extra demand. The groups also maintain that the cycling-parking provision ratio of 1:5 is inadequate, and that hard-surface car parks increase the risk of flooding in the vicinity.

Thames Water expressed similar concerns regarding local drainage infrastructure, and has contacted the developer for assurances. The public environmental protection body Natural England, however, expressed no objections to the proposals on ecological grounds.

Oxfordshire County Council, though not objecting to the plans in principle, has also registered concern over the loss of 132 parking spaces and insufficient cycling amenities, noting that too many hospital staff rely on cars to access their workplace. 

The hospital site is poorly-served by public transport routes, and traffic on the surrounding roads is frequent. 

John Radcliffe Hospital frequently does research with Oxford University with the latter being an academic partner, one of the leading Biomedical Research Centres in the UK. The hospital houses many departments of Oxford University Medical School. 

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