Members' Breakfast Briefing with Joe Harrison, Milton Keynes University Hospital

Date: 16 Mar 2022

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MKUH Chief Exec on the ambitious plans to create a hospital fit for the future


Professor Joe Harrison has updated members of the business community on how Milton Keynes University Hospital has fared throughout the pandemic, how its expansion plans are taking shape, and what the hospital is doing to drive down its carbon footprint. 

As CEO of MKUH, Joe was speaking at the latest Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership (MKBLP) breakfast briefing, just days after the hospital marked the second anniversary of the Cancer Centre.

Opening in March 2020, the £15m centre, which brought all cancer services under one roof, has been a beacon of light for the hospital during a difficult period: “We are one of just a few places in the country with a totally separate building offering cancer services, and this has enabled us to continue treating cancer patients throughout the pandemic.”

Acknowledging that there has been an increase in the number of people on the hospital waiting list, “we effectively shut the NHS down to focus on Covid-19,” Joe commented that the emphasis is now on getting people back into the hospital and presenting early, doubling CT and trebling MRI facilities to diagnose conditions: “We are using every space possible to make sure we have the capacity.”

The hospital was significantly impacted during the second wave of the pandemic in January 2021. While still running at a reduced capacity, with two wards dedicated to Covid patients and measures in place to minimise infection levels, the focus is now turning to the future, and the development of the site to meet the long term needs of the people of Milton Keynes. 

The next drive is to open a £13m radiotherapy unit next door to the Cancer Centre, eliminating the need for patients to travel to Northampton or Oxford for treatment, and the opening of The Maple Centre in October. Adjacent to the A&E department, and on the site of the former Maple Unit facility, the new Maple Centre will ensure people receive the emergency care they need, without having to become an inpatient at the hospital: “Half of all patients coming through for emergency treatment will find themselves in The Maple Centre.”

In 2020, Milton Keynes University Hospital was announced as one of 48 hospital sites to receive funding from the UK Government to improve estate infrastructure as part of the New Hospital Programme.

The arrival of the pandemic certainly derailed these plans, which have been cited as the largest hospital improvement programme in a generation, but Joe candidly acknowledged that, to date, progress has been incredibly slow. “It is a challenge for the Government, that’s because they are looking at hospital sites which require demolition and re-build, but we could start building today – we have the space.” Top of Professor Joe’s list of new facilities is the creation of an Elective Surgical Centre, and a new Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Leveraging on its links to Oxford University Hospitals, MKUH will also raise the standard of its Cardiology department. Next month, the hospital will move into a portable Cath Lab, while a state-of-the-art Cardiac Cath Lab is created with the support and input from the globally renowned Oxford cardiology team.

“We are delivering significant improvements to treatment and supporting the local area by bringing together previously spread out services. The development of these sites represents the next generation for our hospital – getting these buildings in place will take Milton Keynes to a new level.”

During the event at Mansion House, Bletchley Park, Joe highlighted how the hospital is playing its part in the green agenda, including a £2m investment in solar panels. Currently producing 8% of the hospital’s total electrical output, this figure is anticipated to raise to 15% by the end of the year.

“It’s things like this which differentiates our hospital from other hospitals around the country who are just a mile away from this. From my perspective, it’s about how we get great people to work in Milton Keynes and stay in Milton Keynes.”

A sentiment which resonated with every businessperson within the room.