IT WAS the controversial row that sparked a petition to save a fast food chain from being axed from a Southampton hospital.

But bosses at Southampton General have pressed ahead with plans to ditch Burger King from its menu.

And the Daily Echo can reveal it has gone upmarket with its replacement which is not just any food outlet - it's a Marks & Spencer food outlet.

The M&S shop and cafe will join Subway in the £2.5m redevelopment of the hospital frontage set to start this summer.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the General, will work with construction firm Interserve Prime on the project as part of a larger 25-year £150m commercial estates partnership to design and build new facilities.

The trust also confirmed Interserve was funding the frontage development rather than NHS money being used.

Daily Echo:

Artist's impression of the new Southampton General Hospital redevelopment

Existing tenants Costa Coffee, WH Smiths and the League of Friends will retain their units in the new hospital frontage alongside the new businesses.

Shops and cafes will be closed in stages to ensure some retail is available throughout the redevelopment.

And Kiteleys solicitors will provide conveyance, wills and family law services from a new office outside the hospital Spice of Life restaurant.

Daily Echo:

How the new front of Southampton General Hospital could look

Nick Johnson, development projects director at UHS, said: “Ensuring a positive experience for our patients, visitors and staff is paramount. By working with Interserve Prime to secure funding, private investment can now be quickly channelled into facilities such as the main entrance and retail area - and this is where our public-private partnership really pays dividends.”

Leighton Chumbley of Interserve Prime the new look area offered an enhanced range of outlets whilst providing a revenue source for the Trust.

As reported by the Daily Echo, the decision not to renew Burger King's lease, which expires in 2016, prompted a petition to save the chain, with many claiming it served better food than the hospital cafe.

But the decision was welcomed by Healthwatch Southampton, which said hospitals were “inappropriate” locations for fast food chains.

Daily Echo:

A trust spokesman added: “The new design will include a larger, lighter, double-height entrance; a new reception area at the heart of the space; improved patient and visitor facilities; and extra seating to give you a place to relax and wait in a comfortable, pleasant environment.”

The trust has confirmed people will be directed to alternative entrances while the main entrance is closed between May/June and January 2016. Maps and advice online will also be given out as well as posting extra volunteers to help direct visitors.

As previously reported the hospital is also working on plans to ease parking problems with a new £12m facility.