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Market Harborough hospital: Top-level meeting reveals timetable and plans for war memorial portico as costs rise

December 5, 2014 9:45 PM

Two of NHS England's top officials have outlined a revised timetable for the construction of a much delayed community hospital in the Region to a leading East Midlands health campaigner.

The update on the project at St Luke's hospital in Market Harborough was given in a 40-minute meeting on Thursday morning between Lib Dem councillor Phil Knowles and NHS England regional director for Midlands and East Dr Paul Watson and NHS Properties regional director Martin Royal.

The meeting, held at the NHS Victoria House Headquarters in Cambridge, also revealed the cost of the project had seemingly increased to £7.8 million from previous estimates of around £6.2million and that the opening date is more likely to be nearer June 2016 than early 2016.

Harborough health campaigner Phil Knowles said: "I contacted Simon Stevens the CEO of NHS England to request this meeting in order that I could put the communities questions and concerns to officials against what we felt had become a virtual wall of silence in recent weeks over just what was happening!."

Phil Knowles continued:

"I am pleased that both Dr Paul Watson and Martin Royal were happy to share details with me. We now know that the Hospital will be the subject of discussion at an NHS 'technical meeting in December before moving on to the Board for the January 2015 meeting. From there work should commence on site in March or April 2015.

"Some 55 weeks later - May 2016 - is the new target for completion of the Harborough Hospital. That is two to four weeks more for commissioning followed by decanting from the old cottage hospital on Coventry Road. NHS England expect the new hospital to be serving the community around end June 2016.

"It is clear there has been slippage but the commitment is clearly there at a very senior level in the NHS to deliver the scheme and not to kick it into the long grass.

"I also took the opportunity to raise concerns that the deadline to publish details of the services that the new hospital will provide was missed. We were assured this would be presented in October, yet now in December nothing has been seen. Dr Watson confirmed that the CCG must have this plan and need to publish it. He assured me that he would be taking up this delay with the CCG and that he agreed with me that the information needed to be put to the public so they can see exactly what is planned on site. I made it clear that in my view this should be put on the table sooner rather than later, more delays were simply not acceptable.''

Cllr Knowles then took the opportunity to discuss in detail the war memorial portico, which has been the subject of a petition of more than 3000 names calling for its protection and a guarantee for its future.

''There is seemingly no NHS money for the protection of the First World War memorial portico at the district hospital. There seemed no willingness to reintroduce funding and no indication as to why the money was taken out of the budget, but NHS England tell me they do have a plan. A plan they confirmed as their way of securing the future of the memorial and portico.

"Once the move to the St Luke's site is completed the Coventry Road cottage hospital is expected to be declared as surplus. The surplus site will be advertised for 42 days on the web seeking expressions of interest.

"I'm told that there will be a key condition included by the NHS in the sales contract for the old hospital that will see the purchaser becoming responsible for either funding the move and rehoming of the war memorial or, depending on the possible future use of the site, securing the memorial and portico in its current location. The intention and commitment is evident, but we will need to monitor this very,very closely indeed."