WORK to expand the John Radcliffe Hospital Emergency Department has begun as health chiefs move to keep pace rapidly increasing patient numbers.

A ground breaking ceremony was held at the hospital site in Headington to mark the official start of the project which will see more space provided for patients and diagnostic equipment, while also allowing for improved ambulance turn around time.

The county's main A&E at the John Radcliffe Hospital has been placed under significant pressure in recent years, particularly over winter with patient numbers rising by more than 30 per cent in the last decade.

The newly appointed chair of Oxford University Hospitals, Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery joined members of staff from the Emergency Department for the official groundbreaking on the scheme.

Read again: Concerns raised over John Radcliffe Hospital A&E expansion

Sir Jonathan, who started his new role as chair of the trust on Monday April 1, taking over from Dame Fiona Caldicott, said: “This is a lovely way to start my time here, launching this improvement to patient services.

“Our community deserves an Emergency Department able to cope with the challenges of a growing, but also ageing population and this new build will help our staff to deliver excellent care.

“It is a significant building project with many complex elements, but on its completion, it will benefit the whole community.”

Oxford Mail:

As a part of the expansion project, six new ambulances spaces will be created and a more efficient drop off point will be set up at the entrance of the new building.

Between April 2018 and January 2019 more than 20 per cent of ambulances had to wait longer than 15 minutes to transfer patients to the John Radcliffe.

Any wait of more than 15 minutes is deemed a potential threat to life by the NHS, because it means ambulances are not available to respond to the most serious medical emergencies, such as those involving victims of strokes, stabbings, heart attacks or breathing problems.

Read again: Oxfordshire A&E attendances continue to rise

The expansion will also provide an extra nine bays for the immediate care of seriously ill patients as well as a paediatric resuscitation room and an isolation room with an adjacent CT scanner and control room as well as a nurses’ bay and improved bereavement and relatives’ rooms.

Matron of the Emergency Department, Katie Mimpress, said: “I am very pleased that the new facility will provide improved bereavement and relatives’ rooms which will give families more privacy at an incredibly difficult time.

“A dedicated CT scanner will enable us to get the diagnosis of critically ill patients far more quickly.”

The planning application for the project, consisting of the building extension and the refurbishment of the current Emergency Department, was submitted to Oxford City Council in July 2018 and approved in November 2018.

The A&E expansion works are hoped to be completed by spring 2020.