MAJOR flooding has been revealed as the reason behind a lengthy delay to the opening of new wards at Hereford County Hospital.

The new wards, replacing the 1940s huts, were meant to handed over to the Wye Valley NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, at the beginning of July.

But that date was missed, along with the August 9 handover which chief executive Glen Burley said he was hoping for.

Now, in a report published ahead of the trust board meeting tomorrow (December 2), Mr Burley said the final handover date should be December 21.

Saying it would be "the perfect Christmas present", the chief executive said there was a number of setbacks with the new wards, which will have 72 beds, an increase of 18 overall.

He said not only did the coronavirus pandemic affect the project, but in summer 2021 there was a "serious fault" with the fire sprinkler system which caused "major flooding".

"The replacement of our old hutted Wards has long been an ambition of the trust," the report by Mr Burley said.

"Our initial challenge was to make the case for replacement and to secure the funding," he said, with the trust securing £23.6 million for the work.

“We opted for a modular design solution in order to speed up their operational availability.

"We also realised that the marginal cost of a three ward build, as opposed to the two that we were replacing, was worth the increased capital investment."

He said the initial hope was that the wards, visited by Boris Johnson in August 2020, could have become operational in early 2021, but Covid caused setbacks.

"Then, just as we were about to accept handover in the summer, the building was subjected to a serious fault of the fire safety sprinkler system which resulted in major flooding and a resultant need to assess, remedy and rebuild," he said.

"I am now delighted to report that we are on track for a final handover date of December 21.

"Our ward move schedule is still draft as we work through the complications of moving two Covid wards as part of the plan.

"Currently we plan to move into all three new wards before New Year. Beyond that, there is a six week period of renovation for the two existing wards and then the final moves happen in February will see the hutted wards close.

"Demolition has been tendered and is currently being scheduled – there may be quite a queue to press the button."