THERE was a lump in Mel White’s throat at 8am as she finished her last night shift in the A&E department at Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary and locked the doors.

After working at the South Side hospital for more than 40 years, preparations were under way to move not just Mel’s department but the entire hospital to its new home in the £842m Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“They had to put locks on the door the day before because in all those years it had never been locked,” marvels Mel, 60, from Kilmarnock, a senior staff nurse.

“When we looked out the window all these removal vans arrived, about 10 of them, and that was what gave me a wee lump in my throat and made it feel very real. We were all shedding a few tears.”

The monumental task of moving the Southern General, Western Infirmary, Victoria Infirmary and Yorkhill Children's Hospital to the new site in the spring was a hugely ambitious project and a logistical nightmare in more ways than one.

It has hit the headlines, not always for positive reasons, from failing to meet recommended waiting times in A&E to an air quality scare that saw the bone marrow transplant service being transferred back to the Beatson Centre.

The facts and figures of the operation, as well as the very human stories of the staff and patients are captured in Scotland’s Superhospital, tonight on BBC One.

The early days at the new purpose-built state-of-the-art healthcare facility were a learning curve for everyone. Only time will tell if four into one really does fit.

“If it had been just one hospital moving into the new place, the fact there were three (plus a children's hospital), no-one knew each other,” explains Mel.

“You could have somebody in their 40s who was a newly qualified nurse, you didn’t know what their skills were. Things like that took time to get used to.”

Mel has worked in A&E for more than 25 years, a department at the Victoria Infirmary that had become increasingly overwhelmed by the number of patients who turned up at the doors that never closed.

“Space-wise and numbers-wise, we were struggling for staff to cope with the volume coming in,” she says.

“We could go off shift and be in tears because we couldn’t look after people the way they should be. That’s the way a lot of nurses get a bad reputation, it’s not that they don’t know how or don’t want to do the job properly, physically there are not enough of you.”

A&E has been streamlined at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, dividing patients referred by their GPs and general emergencies, a move that aims to make a difference to the speed and quality of care offered.

The nurse in charge on her first shift at the new hospital, Mel was thrown in at the deep end.

“The relationship with other staff was one of the things we were all worried about. We had a really close bond at the Vic, and I think the Western were the same: we were both two very old hospitals with huge volumes of patients coming through,” she says.

“We realised we worked in very similar ways. The staff are all getting on really well, we’re building up really nice relationships.

“The relationship with the patients never really changed, you always treat people the same way.”

When fully operational, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which opened in April, will serve 41% of Scotland’s population.

It has 20 operating theatres, 1109 inpatient rooms - in the adult hospital alone - and the huge new A&E department, as well as a rooftop helipad to speed up emergency admissions.

The move for Southern General respiratory consultant Dr Kevin Blyth was only a few hundred yards, but it took his department from the 19th straight into the 21st century.

In the old Victorian building where he had to carry out endoscopy procedures, there sometimes was neither heating nor hot water.

“It was almost every few months where the heating would break, it would be a pipe or something, and we had to create some workaround to make sure the patient wasn’t cancelled,” he explains.

“On a Tuesday morning before my ward round the first thing I did was go to the theatre check the heating was working. If it wasn’t I would phone the estates guy and get it fixed, so that it was working in the afternoon.

“You just make those things work. We were practising modern medicine in buildings that just weren’t designed to have that number of patients. They just weren’t set up to deal with modern infection control.”

Dealing daily with lung disease, a massive problem in the West of Scotland, the new respiratory unit will take up one floor of the new hospital.

“The new accommodation hasn’t changed our medical practice. The big structural advantage is that for the chest unit we now have 17 chest consultants in one place,” says Kevin, 39, who studied at the University of Glasgow and lives in South Glasgow.

“Before in the individual hospitals you might have had, say at Gartnavel, expertise in cystic fibrosis and at the Southern you might have had expertise in pleural diseases and cancer, at the Victoria you might have expertise in TB management.

“The big change is that when a patient comes to the new hospital they are served by all those people, they are all in the same place.

“Medicine is getting more complex every year so you do need not just a chest doctor to look after you but it would be advantageous to have the right chest doctor who specialises in that particular area of disease.”

That doesn’t mean that the new hospital doesn’t present its challenges.

Patients are all in single rooms, which can be isolating for some, especially the elderly, and makes the working day more physically demanding for nursing staff.

“The wards are enormous, they have 28 beds in rooms around a central column. For the nurses to manage those beds and be able to check all the patients, it used to be the case they would be central and could see the ward. Now to see everyone they have to go into every room.

“The very consistent feedback from nurses is that it is very demanding, they are on their feet all the time. That has caused a bit of negativity because it’s different and it’s hard and people get anxious about having sick people in places they can’t see.

“All these things will evolve, it’s not perfect by any means, there are definitely problems.”

It seems that taking the temperature of this superhospital hasn’t been the simplest of procedures …

Scotland’s Superhospital, November 2, BBC One, 9pm