Anger is mounting over the delay to building work on Harborough’s £4million new hospital building.
Harborough residents were promised a new hospital at the St Luke’s site in Leicester Road back in January but work has still yet to start.
Cllr Phil Knowles has been fighting for more than 20 years for the town to get a new hospital and he sought answers recently with NHS England area director David Sharp and its finance director Andy Leary. It now appears that it could be well into 2014 before building work starts due to NHS red-tape – a year later than expected.
Cllr Knowles, a Liberal Democrat councillor, said: “Disappointment, dismay and deepening concern are just some of my sentiments.
“There is no way for health bosses to gloss over this. The first thing NHS England and the East Leicestershire Clinical Commission Group have to accept is that if the many earlier promises had been met then the project would at the very least have been started before signor the new hospital open for service. What has happened with this scheme is literally beyond belief.”
Cllr Phil King (Con), who is a member of the St Luke’s Project Board, added: “I am very disappointed to receive this information through the press rather than directly from senior officials of the commissioning group.
“At the project board meeting in June, members were assured by the chief executive that this was a slight blip in the process and building work was only slightly delayed.
“It now looks likely we’ll be lucky to see this project get off the ground by next August.
“This is someone’s idea of a sick joke, except it isn’t funny as it involves improving healthcare facilities and treatments to cope with the huge increases in population that have occurred in the market.”
NHS England for Leicestershire and Lincolnshire area team director David Sharp said: “We had a very positive meeting with Cllr Knowles, who was very thorough in his challenges.
“I was able to explain to him that we were not asking him to wait on an open-ended process but once we are satisfied with the business case, the subsequent NHS England approval should be completed within 12 to 16 weeks, subject to national prioritisation.
“However, the 12 to 16-week process can only start once the business case has been signed off by the area team.
“The first opportunity for this approval will be at a meeting on September 25.”
NHS England, formerly the NHS Commissioning Board, is the new body which leads the NHS in England.
Its main aim is to improve the health outcomes for people in England and it sets the overall direction and priorities for the NHS as a whole.
The business case had been completed under the old regime but was not pushed through in time for work to start by the time NHS England had taken over.
Timeline plots a catalogue of delay and failure
2004: Town is promised a new £30 hospital under a PFI agreement
March/June 2007: PFI agreement shelved and a scaled down plan for a £13m hospital is promised for 2012
Spring 2010: Proposals for a £7.1m new hospital are now on the table
January 2013: Health bosses say plans are in place for a £4m new hospital. Building work will start in spring 2013 and it will open in 2014
September 2013: Health chiefs admit it might be another 16 weeks before sign-off