MPs act over new hospital cash cuts
HERTFORDSHIRE MPs have demanded a meeting with the health trust responsible for bringing a new "superhospital" to Hatfield after learning that the cost of the project has been slashed.
The East and North Herts Hospitals NHS Trust says the spend on the project which should include a specialist cancer centre will now be between £300 and £400 million, rather than the original estimate of £500 million.
The amount that can be spent has gone down because the Government is reviewing how much it lets hospital trusts spend on PFIs (private finance initiatives), where trusts borrow money from private companies to pay for projects and then pay it back over a number of years.
In other areas huge projects have been delayed because the Government is concerned about the amount of money being borrowed.
Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps has called for a meeting between the trust's chief executive Nick Carver and other Hertfordshire MPs to discuss fears that the project may have to be scaled down.
MP Anne Main said she was concerned that a cancer centre would not be built with the hospital, which will serve residents.
She said: "There are a number of implications of this revelation, including the fact that this may mean that there may no longer be a new cancer centre at Hatfield.
"The important thing to remember here is that this cannot all be about money, but any proposal must be about providing the best possible health care to the local community."
Mrs Main said if the cancer centre did not go ahead at Hatfield, a recently-built cancer unit at City Hospital could be retained instead of being moved to Hemel Hempstead as planned.
The trust's head of public affairs Peter Gibson said no decision had yet been taken on whether the cancer centre was affordable.
He said: "There is nothing yet about whether the cancer centre is in or out.
"We are trying to make it fit within the capital spend that we have that is the challenge for the trust team.
"There are ways of building things which can make them more cost effective.
"We are not sure at the moment whether the spend we are allowed will include VAT, land charges and equipment that will make a huge difference.
"The reality is that there have always been serious hurdles, anyone who assumed that it was a done deal doesn't understand the NHS.
"We have to prove ourselves over and over again but we are very close to knowing the affordability of it.
" When we know that we will put it in the public domain."
12:16pm Tuesday 4th July 2006
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