A rooftop ceremony at the Royal Sussex marked a key point in the £485 million makeover taking place at the Brighton hospital.
The “topping out” ceremony celebrated completion of the framework for the “stage 1 building” – the biggest of the new structures at the Kemp Town site.
The event was hosted by Dame Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, the NHS trust that runs the Royal Sussex.
She was joined by Liam Cummins, head of UK building at Laing O’Rourke, the lead contractor on the nine-year project.
The deputy mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Alan Robins, and the former leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Councillor Daniel Yates, who works in the NHS, were among the guests.
Dame Marianne said: “At the beginning of this year this hospital and its staff were rated as outstanding for care by the Care Quality Commission.
“This took an incredible amount of work by everyone in the organisation and sprung from putting patients first in everything we do.
“There is still more work to be done, however, and the environment in which we deliver care is of vital importance for patients and staff.
“It has been incredible to see how things have changed on the construction site in the last 12 months.”
Dame Marianne said that she and her colleagues had witnessed a significant part of the Royal Sussex County Hospital’s future “literally growing before our eyes”.
She added that “this impressive building” and the redevelopment as a whole would “give us the kind of care environment around which our future as a major acute teaching hospital trust can be built”.
Mr Cummins said: “Today’s milestone is a significant step towards the delivery of a state-of-the-art facility which will leave a lasting legacy for patients to enjoy for decades to come.
“Our close relationship with the NHS means we are working collaboratively to ensure the current hospital continues to operate throughout the works and disruption is kept to a minimum.”
As part of the ceremony, Dolores Glover, who has worked at the Royal Sussex for more than 40 years, placed a piece of yew wood into the concrete.
The hospital trust said: “This centuries-old tradition of including yew in the framework is believed to bring good luck to a building and its occupants.
“The ‘stage 1 building’ will open early in 2021 and will be the new home for more than 30 wards and departments.
“This will include all the services from the Barry Building, which opened its doors 20 years before Florence Nightingale started nursing.
“The ‘stage 1 building’ will host the hospital’s new main entrance and will connect directly to buildings further back on site, making it much easier to navigate the hospital.
“It will also feature underground car parking for patients and visitors.”
Part of the work currently under way includes the building of a helideck on the roof of the Thomas Kemp Tower.
The ‘stage 2 building’ will occupy the south west quarter of the Royal Sussex site and replace 13 existing buildings.
They include the Barry Building which was completed in 1828 and is the oldest acute inpatient ward block in the countryj.
The third stage involves creating a new delivery and service area to improve site management and logistics.
The scheme is expected to be completed in 2025 and is known as the 3Ts redevelopment – with the three Ts standing for trauma, teaching and tertiary care.
By completion, all the buildings at the front of the site will have been replaced, with more capacity and some extra parking.
The hospital trust added: “The project’s remit is not limited to these areas and will improve conditions for patients and staff in more than 40 wards and departments.”