A NEW £11million A&E department at Whipps Cross Hospital has opened today.

The shiny new building, which has taken around 18 months to build, includes state-of-the-art facilities, a slight increase in capacity and gleaming new equipment.

Staff transferred over from the old A&E building next door at 8am Wednesday (May 9).

Dr Alan Hakim, the clinical lead for the project, told the Guardian the new building would greatly improve conditions for staff and patients alike.

He said: "The old A&E department was very cramped. It dated back to the 1970s, so this new building really brings things up to a 21st century standard.

"There's much better facilities and there's massive changes in the paediatric unit, which is like a mini A&E in itself.

"The resuscitation room now has six beds rather than four, there's better infection control and everything is modernised.

"We've always been excellent at saving lives in our A&E department but now we'll be doing it in a much better facility and with more space.

"For me this is about improving the quality of the experience".

The opening is the first of two phases of a scheme to modernise emergency admissions at the site in Leytonstone.

The old A&E department will now be demolished and be replaced by a new emergency medical centre, which will group together 70 beds that are currently spread out over four wards.

Construction is set to begin almost immediately.

The total cost of the scheme is £22million, with each phase costing about £11million each, Dr Hakim said.

The new A&E was approved in May 2010 long before the hospital's recent merger was formulated.

Dr Hakim said the building had been designed to cope with extra admissions if the proposed closure of the A&E department at King George Hospital in Ilford went ahead.

He added: "The staff are very excited and enthused about working in this new modern environment.

"There's been a few slight snags along the way but our target was to get it open before the Olympics, which we've done.

"I'm absolutely delighted, although I won't be able to breath a sigh of relief until a week or so. I'm just looking forward to seeing it up and running."

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