A NEW £9m small animal hospital to serve the north of England is to be built in Wirral, Merseyside. The University of Liverpool hospital, which will be a UK centre of veterinary excellence, will be built next to the existing Philip Leverhulme large animal hospital at Leahurst, near Neston.
The new hospital will offer advanced techniques such as radiotherapy treatment and MRI scanning, a safer alternative to X-rays, for domestic animals like dogs and cats, as well as more exotic small creatures.
In addition, specialist vets will be employed to deal with advanced surgical procedures, such as keyhole surgery, and the centre will have its own dedicated anaesthetist.
The hospital is to be built because veterinary specialists at the university's current small animal hospital, in Crown Street, Liverpool city centre, say they need more space to meet demand.
The new facility, which will hold more than 60 animal in-patients’ will employ around 40 staff, and will not only offer pioneering treatments but also aims to become a world leader in the teaching of veterinary practices.
It will have four wards and serve as a main hospital for small animals throughout the North of England. The nearest similar hospitals are in southern England and Scotland.
The Crown Street site will continue running and complement the new venture as a "first opinion general practice centre".
Building work is expected to start in April 2005 and the hospital is expected to be up and running by the end of 2006.
Professor Sandy Trees, dean of the faculty of veterinary science at the university, said:
"The new hospital will be one of the biggest for small animals in the country. We have been investing heavily in the number of small animal staff and the new hospital will service clients from all over the North of England."
Dr Laura Blackwood, a member of the university project group behind the scheme, added: "We aim to offer services for animals like in a human hospital.
Vets in general practice will send pets - mainly cats and dogs - to us on referral as we specialise in dealing with a broad range of animal diseases.
"The current hospital in Crown Street is just too small for the number of patients we now deal with and the vet students we train. This facility will remain as a first opinion general practice centre with the main hospital in Neston.
"The new hospital will bring our specialist equine and small animal practices together on one site."
The university has pledged £3m to the new hospital with the remainder being raised by the Faculty of Veterinary Science Development Campaign - which was set up to mark the 100th anniversary of Liverpool opening the first vets' school in the country in 1904.
Richard Nicholls, development executive for the campaign, said: "The campaign has been running for a few years, during which time our fundraising events and initiatives have raised over £2.5m.
"With only £3.5m to go, we are going to carry on doing what we have been doing and we are now at the planning stage for the project. We hope building will begin in April next year with the hospital up and running by the end of 2006."
The faculty is also planning to invest a further £2m to create an Information Learning and Resource Centre at Leahurst.
The Philip Leverhulme Large Animal Hospital is part of the Faculty of Veterinary Science and is one of the busiest hospitals of its kind, dealing annually with around 1,700 equine patients referred from all parts of the UK.