A MAJOR expansion of the emergency department at the John Radcliffe Hospital has been unveiled by health bosses in a bid to battle mounting pressure on the service.

The two-storey extension will feature eight new A&E treatment bays, as well as a paediatric resuscitation room, CT scanner, nurse base and improved bereavement rooms.

Work could start as early as this autumn on the building project, which will also include making the ambulance drop off point 'more efficient' and changes to the roundabout near the Headington hospital's main entrance.

Dr Larry Fitton, clinical lead for the emergency department, said: “Due to the growing population in our area, an expansion of our emergency department is vital to ease the pressure on our services caused by increased numbers of patients and to ensure that high-quality care is delivered to them."

Health chiefs apologised in April after the number of patients forced to wait in A&E departments for 12 hours or more rose ‘significantly’ last winter.

January saw Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the John Radcliffe, record its highest level of 12-hour breaches for ‘many years’, according to the trust’s performance report.

A total of 53 patients endured A&E waits of 12 hours or more.

South Central Ambulance Service's acting head of operations for Oxfordshire, Ross Cornett, said: “We welcome and fully support the expansion project at the John Radcliffe emergency department and thank colleagues at the hospital for involving us in this exciting development.

“The new facilities will speed up the safe handover of our patients to colleagues in the emergency department, allowing ambulances to return to active duty considerably quicker so that we can respond to the next patient sooner.”

The project, which is expected to be completed by spring 2020, comes in response to criticism in a Care Quality Commission report from 2014 on the quality of resuscitation space in the A&E.

It also comes after a temporary expansion this winter which saw two Portakabins airlifted into place at the emergency department to create a ‘filtering’ service to deal with the building pressure on the hospital’s emergency departments by removing less serious cases.

A planning application was submitted to Oxford City Council this week, with consultation until August 27 and a final decision set for September 17.

Dr Fitton said: “It is a significant building project with many complex elements, but on its completion, it should benefit the whole community."