Letter to Editor: Still a number of hurdles over new hospital for Harlow

News / Mon 24th Jul 2023 at 08:39am

Dear Editor

I do wish both Robert Halfon and Cllr Dan Swords would stop over egging their public statements about the progress of the new hospital. They keep presenting it as a done deal, when they know there are still a number of hurdles to be overcome.  

Yes, it is good news that after extensive delays the Treasury has given an agreement in principle to funding a new Princess Alexandra Hospital. It is also good news that they have given agreement on the commencement of enabling works so that the Trust can now start the process of purchasing the necessary land. 


  1. The Treasury still have to sign off the Outline Business Case and the final design for the hospital. A design which has yet to be finalised by the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust and the NHS. 
  2. The land, which is somewhere near the new M11 junction, has yet to be  purchased from the current owners, 
  3. Planning permission has to yet to be granted by Epping Forest District Council,  
  4. The building contracts will then have to be let, the building work completed and the hospital will have finally to be fully commissioned. 

And, incidentally we are being told by Robert Halfon that all this will be completed by 2028. Whilst the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust say that it will be 2030. Either way it is a tight deadline. (Remember we were originally told back in 2019 that the hospital had to be built by 2025) 

There is also the small matter of the National Audit Office raising serious concerns about the risk of new “hospitals being built that are that are too small to meet the needs of the communities they serve.” We have yet to be told by the Trust the detail of how exactly services will be provide. The Trust talk about “doing things differently” – whilst the National Audit Office raises significant concerns about the governments stated assumption “that hospitals will need fewer beds in future with patients experiencing shorter stays ”  – something the NAO describes as “poorly supported by the evidence”. 

I hope that the Trust will now engage in a meaningful discussion with the public about what will be provided (they after all are the major stakeholders) So that it can be shown that views have been listened to in a meaningful way, prior to everything being literally “set in stone”. 

I fully recognise that planning and building a new hospital is a massive task. The new Princess Alexandra Hospital will serve a catchment population in excess of 500,000. I welcome the fact that the Government has given a commitment in principle to build a new hospital and has at last agreed to fund the necessary “enablement work”, but it is only one of many steps.  

Mr Halfon and Cllr Swords now need to drop the hyperbole about “a fully funded state of the art hospital”. They need to be straight with the public about the work that has yet to be done and the likely constraints. 

We need a realistic timescale for completion of the work. 

We need a firm undertaking from Essex County Council regarding the provision of a reliable and funded 24 hour bus service to and from the new hospital site and the Harlow Town Centre. 

We also need evidence of a clear process of public engagement and a strong Harlow Voice in the planning and commissioning of how exactly hospital services for a catchment area of 500,000 people are to be provided in the hopefully not too distant future.  

Yours Sincerely 

Cllr Tony Edwards 

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13 Comments for Letter to Editor: Still a number of hurdles over new hospital for Harlow:

Nick Gunning
2023-07-24 09:40:07

There also needs to be a full risk assessment of the proposed site- bringing vibrant people into an unhealthy atmosphere. Not just the danger of motorway fumes to expectant mothers as identified by the WHO recently, but continuous exposure to staff to whom those risks must be much greater. There's also the government's record on open competition and procurement, as exposed during the growing ppe scandals. Who owns this land? Who is to benefit from the decision to give up the central and well connected site and place a hospital in this scrub land, inaccessible to this who don't drive or have full mobility. All that is even before issues of the designs of these new hospitals, which research seems to have suggested will be too small for post 2030 population, even with more home treatment. We need a replacement for the current buildings, many of which would not have been approved with modern regulations. But with this plan, and the MP and local councillors' desperation, its sensible to smell a rat- in fact a whole menagerie. This has me to do with propaganda for the government and rich pickings for their supporters than healing the sick!

2023-07-24 10:27:26

There must be an election due. Halfon and co trot out the imminent arrival of the new hospital just prior to an election on a regular basis.

2023-07-24 10:54:40

The new Hospital site will need adequate and FREE parking. I understand the need to charge at the current site to deter people from parking and going over to the shops. There can be no justification for parking charges at such a remote site.

2023-07-24 12:06:53

And round and round and round we go….I think everyone knew it was going to be difficult and take a while but this is ridiculous …promises made, promises broken, more promises made…more promises broken. Crazy situation as the hospital provision in the town gets worse and worse and will be compounded when the new developments housing come on line .

Matthew Gillman
2023-07-24 12:27:50

I don't think the new hospital should have the same name as the existing one. It's going to cause a lot of confusion.

David Forman
2023-07-24 12:49:59

Does Cllr Edwards seriously want to scaremonger about provision of a bus service to the new hospital? Roughly 3500 people will work at the new hospital and a thousand plus patients and visitors each day. Does Cllr Edwards seriously think the bus companies will neglect that kind of revenue? My God, what desperate politicking from Labour! Members of the public should watch Labour councillors attempts to scrutinize the Conservative council administration at Cabinet meetings. It is woeful and I don't say that gladly.

David Vincent
2023-07-24 13:42:07

Cllr Tony Edwards should know, as he quotes the National Audit Office (NAO), that delays have been incurred due to developing a model template to standardize hospital design. The purpose of standardisation is, according to the NAO, to achieve "delivering efficiencies and quality improvements". Another worthwhile change is incorporating Modern Methods of Construction. The Architects Journal has more on this: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/design-issue-stalls-hospital-building-programme

2023-07-24 13:52:44

Why o why are we letting this hospital to be built by the M11 . Every time their is a problem with the M11,M25 all the roads are backed up with cars ect trying to get out of the traffic jam

2023-07-24 15:25:45

I wonder how much we will get for the hospital land when it is sold off? Hopefully not a tax cut. But council housing .

Nicholas Taylor
2023-07-24 17:31:21

Steve. The NHS intend to sell off the site for about 500 homes, very unlikely to be any council housing.

tony edwards
2023-07-26 10:39:49

David V/F. 1. re Buses; given history of Bus Services in the Town - I don't have your apparent faith in the private sector to provide a 24hr service. ECC should ensure this is a a commissioned service. 2. re the delay re standardisation of buildings. Whilst that may well be a laudable aim, there was no mention of it back in 2019 when both the Essex and Hertfordshire Health Scrutiny Committees were asked by the Hospital Trust if they would agree to not going out to full public consultation, re a move to the new site on the grounds that the health services being provided were remaining the same. And were told that going out to full public consultation would delay the project for up to two years. They agreed to the Trusts request, in part on the understanding that according to the government financial criteria at the time the hospital would have to be built by 2025 or it would not go ahead. Then the government changed the design and finance rules, the project was delayed and Harlow lost an opportunity for full public consultation.

David Forman
2023-07-27 14:16:04

For councillor Edwards' benefit, the standardized NHP 2.0 hospital design has been delayed to end of May 2024. This is in part due to a shortage of technical staff to develop the NHP 2.0 design, which the report says it needs 300. The report says the total NHP team at February 2023 was 361. More worrying is the total amount to be spent on consultants from 2023/24 to 2030/31 of £842 million (75% of total NHP project funding).

David Forman
2023-07-27 14:17:52

Bed occupancy is also an issue, which I hope Michael Casey will be kind enough to print my detailed bulletin on the subject.

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