Letter to Editor: New hospital for Harlow: Great expectations or hard times?
Health / Sat 9th Apr 2022 am30 11:11am
REALITY really is beginning to shine some light on the misleading and exaggerated claims made by the Conservatives at all levels of their Party; Government Ministers, MP and local Councillors.
Ever since September 2019 they have publicly made repeated claims that we are going to get a “new integrated high tech health care campus to replace the ageing Princess Alexandra Hospital” – When in fact the Treasury had not and have not agreed to the funding!
Importantly not only were the public mislead so were the Hospital Trust and Local Authorities. Indeed, an informal meeting of Joint Essex and Hertfordshire Health Scrutiny Committee members held on the 1st April 2020 were told;
“There was a challenging and ambitious timetable for the capital funding application set by Government.
Certain conditions had to be met as part of that application for full funding to be granted for the preferred option including delivering the rebuild by 2025.
The funding application would be considered by NHS England in late June 2020.”
And that because of this “A formal public consultation exercise could not be incorporated into the current timetable set by Government.”
There would however “be a staged process in developing the business case and the public would have the opportunity throughout that process and the ongoing public engagement activities to influence the format and access to services at the new site”.
For those that are interested here is a link to the minutes of that meeting. They are on Page 36 to 39 https://cmis.essex.gov.uk/essexcmis5/CalendarofMeetings/tabid/73/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/410/Meeting/4647/Committee/170/Default.aspx
Perhaps on reflection members of the Committee should have recognised the significance of the date of their meeting. (April 1st).
For here we are two years later and despite previous announcements from Matt Hancock, Boris Johnson, Robert Halfon and local Conservative Councillors we are now finally told on the 7th April 2022
“A new hospital for Harlow to replace Princess Alexandra Hospital is not expected to be built until at least 2028, and that date is entirely dependent on a review the government is carrying out on how to standardise each of the new hospitals being rolled out across the country to cut costs.” And that the design team “have been stood down for the moment”
Nevertheless Michael Meredith, Director of Strategy at Princess Alexandra Hospital, despite saying that the “UK plc is in a very different place now than it was when the programme was announced” – is reportedly “confident of receiving funding which could be £800 million to pay for the site and its development”.
I wish I had his confidence – the time table for the agreed funding, which has already slipped by three years is now given vaguely as “the end of the summer”. And over the last three years the amount potentially available for building the hospital has varied from as low as £400 million to 600 and now £800 million.
On the positive side we are told that site price has been agreed with the land owners – although this is still subject to ongoing discussions. And we are told that the Trust now has detailed plans as to the design of the Hospital and the services that will be provided on the site. I look forward to seeing them and for the detail being shared with the people of Harlow. However, all of this is dependent on the funding being agreed.
For the sake of the Town and the 300,000 plus people the hospital will serve I hope the funding will be agreed – but like so many things promised by the Conservatives – you cannot trust the often repeated “grand announcements” – you have to see the detail and what is delivered in too many cases is far short of what was originally “announced” by Boris Johnson and his acolytes.
Cllr Tony Edwards
Ps For those interested here is the link to the 7th April Committee meeting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-s2WN6bvE4
Cllr Edwards is factually correct, let no-one in the Tory Party tell you any different. We in the Harlow Alliance Party have been following this story very carefully for over three years, it has long been evident that a hospital built on another site is looking less and less likely. The Tories election pledges include making Harlow the best town in Britain, the Town Centre will be the best in Essex, the cycle track system will be the best in the world without a shred of any tangible evidence of how any of it will be achieved, it is simply a case of pulling the wool over the electorates eyes.
I think we all need to wise up - promises made about a new hospital in Harlow, along with the 40+ others promised for other parts of the UK, just before the last General Election, and repeated many times since, were election bribes. The budget’s for these plans have not even been agreed and the so-called plans seem, at best, exaggerated and in some cases totally non-existent. I do think that we will see a new hospital built in Harlow eventually, but I doubt it will be at anytime in the next 10 years. And by the time it is built, the current hospital will probably be at breaking point because of the thousands of new houses that are planned for the town which will see a massive increase in the population. No doubt though the same old empty promises will be wheeled out by Halfon, Johnson and co when it’s election time again.
Funny that Labour also boasted about things that never happened when they were in control of harlow council
This is bigger than just Harlow Council making false promises though. This is about our elected MP and his Government including Johnson who, even in the last week, proudly boasted that they were building 40 new hospitals. This is a totally false boast when you look into the actual facts. There may be around 8 new hospitals, or even as little as 3. And when we will get them? Heaven only knows! The Government certainly doesn't!
Politicians of all parties boast far too much - that is why people do not bother to vote!
Erm, so no one read the Levelling Up White Paper which was published by the Government last month. It mentioned specifically the new Harlow hospital. Oh, of course, that did not fit with Cllr Edward’s argument and, oh yes, there is an election coming up, silly me. Yes, the hospital is taking its time but you obviously do not realise the level of prep and planning that comes with a new district general hospital - it is not something you can just pop up next week!
Sorry Micheal - this not me saying there has not been a decision re funding it is the Director of Strategy at Princess Alexandra Hospital. And as you well know a statement in the Levelling Up White Paper is not the same as a Treasury decision. Equally it is not me that says the time table has slipped because of changing Government policies it is the Director of Strategy. You might want to do some background research of the facts!
As I said in my earlier post, don't let a Tory try to tell you anything different. The facts have been clearly stated in the original article. As each month passes the cost to build a new hospital increases because of inflation in the building industry. Politicians are always trying to come up with headline catching pledges. In the meantime much of the NHS service locally is at breaking point, what we need now is spades in the ground on the present site, creating space for a new building on the present site.
Tony Edwards, like his Momentum comrades, were against a new hospital from the beginning. This is despite three NHS nurses who worked at PAH explaining to a Harlow Labour Party all members meeting why a new hospital on a green field site is the best option. Obviously, the non-clinical far-left political activists know best, just like they knew best when they fecked-up Harlow Council.
David, In 2019 I along with members of the Essex County Council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee were given a tour around Princess Alexandra Hospital. We were taken up on to the roof and shown the uncoordinated way the Hospital had developed over the years. We were told about its poor state of repair. We were also told by the Trust Chief Executive how it would be possible for a new hospital to be developed more quickly and efficiently on a green field site. The Harlow Council Labour administration was of the view that Harlow needed a new hospital irrespective of where it was sited. They sought assurances with regard to the services that would be provided and requested of the Trust and Essex County Council that detailed consideration be given to providing public transport to and from the new site if that was the Trusts preferred option. We were told at the time the Trust had been asked to submit plans for the hospital to be built by 2024/5. Unfortunately despite the numerous Conservative "announcements" the Treasury has not yet signed off on the plans and agreed to the funding.
I wonder how the hundreds of PAH staff who live within walking distance of the present site feel about a new hospital some three miles away in a field? There will be little opportunity to move close to the new site leading to more cars being driven there and back adding to congestion on the roads etc etc. The present site was chosen because it is in the middle of town, it will still be even with more homes built on the towns boundary.