After six years and £1bn in public funds Whitechapel’s new Royal London Hospital opened its doors on Thursday with the start of a one-month arts festival.
Bollywood dancers, local school choirs and a Bollywood brass band welcomed the £650 million hospital, funded by a £1bn Private Finance Initiative contract and containing 600 new-build rooms across 110 wards.
300 patients over the last few weeks have moved into new facilities, which began construction in May 2006.
According to the hospital, the scale of diagnostic care has been doubled thanks to new equipment and refurbishments.
Chief Executive Peter Morris said: “The move into our new hospital, which for the first time brings our clinical teams together under one roof, gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide a health legacy to a community with some of the most challenging health needs anywhere in the developed world.”
The Vital Arts festival will include exhibitions and sound installations as well as workshops and musical performances.
It aims to bring music and arts into the hospital for the public, collaborating with local organisations such as Whitechapel Arts Gallery and Aurora Orchestra.
Vital Arts Music and Participation Manager Rachel Louis said: “Hospitals can be very anxious and emotional places, so art, music and poetry are often used to make clinical areas warmer and more welcoming.”
Beth Willen, a patient at the hospital who had come to watch the celebrations, called the new facilities “very impressive.”
She said: “I am very impressed with it all, and it is really nice the way they have put art into the buildings.”
Stephen O’Brien, chairman of Barts and the London NHS Trust which runs the hospital, praised the opening for “putting life into the hospital”.
He said: “I hope this can be the beginning of trying to do something real and lasting for people in East London who have marginally worse healthcare than anywhere else in the country.”
PFI contracts have been controversial because of spiralling costs and poor results. Last year Barts and the London was listed as one of 22 trusts feared by the government to be at risk due to the cost of repaying interest on PFI loans.