West Suffolk Hospital promised millions for rebuilding programme by Matt Hancock
PUBLISHED: 13:11 29 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:04 29 September 2019
Two hospitals in the region are celebrating after the government said they are to be rebuilt over the next 10 years – but the opposition warned that staff and patients should not trust promises made on the first day of the Tory party conference.
Both the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston - which serves the Waveney area of Suffolk - are included in a list of 21 hospitals across England that are to be rebuilt between 2025 and 2030.
They are in the second phase of a major hospital rebuilding plan unveiled by Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock on the first day of his party conference. Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge is one of six in the first phase of the rebuilding plan from 2020-25.
West Suffolk Hospital chief executive Professor Dr Steve Dunn welcomed the news of the rebuild. He said: "It is a massive investment for us, we are delighted at the news."
The current hospital is well past its use-by date. "It was built in the 1970s with a 30-year lifespan. It has done 45 - and it could be 60 years old by the time the new hospital is completed."
He said the current hospital was only half the size that it would be if it opened today - and staff did a great job in difficult buildings. The hospital still managed to get an outstanding rating from CQC inspectors.
Prof Dunn was very grateful to the two MPs in his area for the news: "You cannot underestimate all the hard work Matt Hancock and Jo Churchill have done for us."
He said details of the new hospital could now be drawn up. One issue that had to be decided was whether it would stay on its present site or possibly move to a new site that had been identified at Westley to create a "health campus" including a dementia village.
Bury St Edmunds MP and junior health minister Jo Churchill said the news about the West Suffolk was very welcome - the hospital had been working on plans for a new building to replace facilities that were now looking very tired.
She said many people's preference was for the hospital to stay at its current site - but could not rule out the possibility of it moving elsewhere.
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She added: "This is great news. The buildings are showing their age and this should give the hospital the chance to get really up-to-date facilities."
The government said it was looking on this as a £10bn programme of work - but it would be some time before money was committed to individual projects.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth was dismissive of the government's offer. He said: "You can't trust Boris Johnson with the NHS.
"All his past promises on new cash have been exposed as a con and after years of Tory cuts, hospitals are crumbling, facing a £6 billion repair bill. What's more our NHS is short of 100,000 staff.
"Only Labour has a costed plan to recruit the extra doctors and nurses our health service needs.
"Ministers must now explain if today's announcement is for completely new projects or ones already planned, what that means for the rest of the NHS capital budget and outline whether existing hospitals or services will close as part of re-configurations and over what timescale.
"Given Boris Johnson's spin of previous health claims, patients and NHS staff will expect total honesty and clarity today."
The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, also sounded a note of caution. BMA council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: "Given that the NHS has been woefully underfunded for years and patient care has suffered as a result, new investment in hospital buildings and the modernisation of scanners is a positive step forward.
"With fewer hospital beds per population compared to other European countries, and a backlog in maintenance and repairs totalling billions, this will clearly not be enough to deliver what is needed. The problem is not limited to hospitals as investment in primary and social care is just as important.
"As doctors we know that hospitals are only as good as the staff who run them and given the scale of the workforce crisis in the NHS, with 100,000 unfilled vacancies, the Government must understand the importance of addressing this if they are to successfully deliver their plan.
"In times of such political uncertainty and with Brexit looming, it is important that any investment promised is delivered with a view not just of the immediate short-term but the long-term sustainability of the NHS that places patients at the core of its motivation."
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