�30m for Welwyn Garden City hospital ‘still safe’

HEALTH bosses have once again been forced to issue assurances that funding for a downsized QE2 Hospital will be available.

The latest guarantee was made after the PCT hastily called an extraordinary meeting to review its future strategy “in the light of the vastly changed economic position and the effects that this will have for future public sector expenditure and investment”.

An email circulated to parties invited to the summit added: “Whilst we have been preparing for more challenging times, we did not anticipate the rise in demand for acute hospital services experienced over the last few months.

“The consequences are we may not be able to do some of the things we had planned for in the way and timescale previously agreed.”

But a spokeswoman for NHS East and North Hertfordshire – the brand name of the PCT – told the WHT the meeting was NOT related to the planned �30m local general hospital (LGH) set to replace the QE2.

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Rather, it was just a regular event for stakeholders to give their views on a new health plan for the PCT.

She said: “We have to refresh our health plan for the county.

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“It’s to do with our key objectives. Every PCT in the country is having to do this.

“It’s nothing to do with... the local general hospital.”

These objectives, or ‘key markers’, include targets such as increasing the number of people giving up smoking, reducing obesity rates among 10- and 11-year-old children, and helping more and more people to control their diabetes.

The spokeswoman added the event, held last Tuesday morning in WGC, had been termed an “extraordinary meeting” and arranged at short notice because the revised health plan had to be submitted before Christmas.

The PCT’s assurances cut little ice with Mike Hobday, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Welwyn Hatfield.

He said the email circulated about the meeting used “very alarmist” language.

“I’m very concerned at the mixed messages coming out of the PCT,” he said.

“On the one hand they tell us publicly there’s nothing to worry about, on the other hand the wording of their internal documentation gives rise to massive concern.

Mr Hobday added it was essential future funding issues did not affect the new LGH.

“We cant afford to lose what we’ve been left with.

“What we have at the QE2 isn’t as much as any of us wanted.

“To lose any of that would be an appalling blow for local people and wholly unacceptable.”

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