Major plans to build a “world class” children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary have won the backing of city leaders.

Newcastle City Council has approved a vision that would see a state of the art, £40m centre built at the RVI – a critical development that will allow specialist children’s heart surgery services to stay in the North East.

The government announced a significant cash injection in 2019 to enable the specialist unit to move from the Freeman Hospital to the Newcastle city centre site, though local NHS trust bosses say they are still waiting for a final seal of approval on the business case for the new facility before construction can begin.

The Northern Echo:

In another boost for hopes of a significant revamp of the RVI, the city council has also granted permission this week for a new ‘Richardson Wing’ that could house hospital services including critical care, a burn ward, and maternity.

However, the government is yet to commit any funding to that £190m project.

At a local authority planning committee on Friday morning, councillors were in unanimous support of the children’s heart unit plans.

The three-storey centre, which will be built on a section of the RVI’s outdoor car park on  Queen Victoria Road and be connected to the rest of the hospital via a new footbridge, could be fully operational by 2031.

The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust said Friday’s verdict was a “positive step for the project and we hope to hear the outcome of the final business case – which would give the centre the full go-ahead – before the end of the year”.

The government announced funding of £41.7m for the scheme in 2019, after NHS England had said children’s heart services could only continue in the region if they were relocated from the Freeman to the same site as the RVI’s Great North Children’s Hospital.

Coun Karen Kilgour, deputy leader of Newcastle City Council, added: “This is great news for the city. Newcastle is blessed with excellent hospitals and this £40m state-of-the-art children’s heart centre will be a welcome addition offering world class facilities right here in the North-East.

“It will give children and their families the very best care and clinical excellence, allowing parents to stay with their children overnight, and provide a therapy garden to aid children’s recovery.”

Planning committee member Stephen Lambert, a Labour councillor in Kenton, called the new unit “a showpiece for the North East of England and a great asset for both the city and its residents”.

A bid for funding to build the seven-storey Richardson Wing next to the existing Leazes Wing in Richardson Road was also launched last year, but bosses are yet to hear whether they have been successful – after the Boris Johnson government had pledged to pay for dozens of new hospitals to be built across the country.

In a planning decision notice published on Wednesday, the council called the proposal “a positive addition for the existing hospital and for the provision of further accommodation to satisfy modern health care standards”.