Is new Welwyn Garden City hospital ‘pie in the sky’?

HEALTH chiefs have pledged there WILL be money available to build a downsized QE2 Hospital – despite a looming cash crisis.

NHS East and North Hertfordshire – the brand name of the PCT – has this week revealed it could end the financial year in debt.

Chief executive Anne Walker, in a letter to MPs, said the PCT was “at risk” of going over budget, and also faced “further financial constraints in years to come”.

A source has revealed to the WHT this budget deficit runs into millions of pounds.

Despite this, a PCT spokeswoman said the �30m needed to build the new local general hospital (LGH), was guaranteed.

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The LGH will take the place of the QE2 when major services, such as A&E and maternity, are centralised at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage over the next few years.

The spokeswoman said: “An agreement is in place, through a national healthcare development scheme, to build the LGH at the QE2.

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“This means we have funding agreed in principle for the capital costs of the hospital, even if future growth money for the NHS is not available.”

She added the PCT was now looking in detail at the services which will be located at the hospital, to determine what space is required.

“Through good building design, using clinical space flexibly and opening for longer during the day, we are confident we have the funds available to develop a new hospital which will meet the needs of local patients and be good value for the NHS.”

The assurances cut little mustard with Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps, however.

He said: “Welwyn Hatfield residents know all about broken healthcare promises.

“We’re still smarting from the forgotten pledge to build a super-hospital at Hatfield and from the bizarre public consultation process which backed the QE2, only to see health bosses decide to shut down the most important services.

“Now it’s looking increasingly likely that the promises to create a brand new LGH are also pie in the sky.

“Surely it’s time for the Government and health bosses to be up front and tell patients exactly when we can expect to see some investment at our end of the A1(M) motorway.”

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