Red tape could cause 'substantial delay' to vital KGH rebuild

Funding problems were raised in the House of Commons again

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 11:57 am
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 11:58 am
An artist’s impression of what the Urgent Care Hub could look like, replacing A&E and short stay urgent care wards, with extra inpatients beds on the higher floors. This would be completed in the first phase of the development.

The once-in-a-generation rebuild of Kettering General Hospital could face a 'substantial delay' because of red tape over its funding streams, two MPs have warned.

Plans to rebuild the ageing Rothwell Road hospital - which sees more than double the number of emergency attendances than its A&E department was designed to cope with in 1994 - have been drawn up, although hospital bosses have pleaded for more cash so they can complete more phases.

The Government has earmarked £396m for them - £350m for the rebuild plan known as HIP2 and £46m for a new urgent care hub which would incorporate A&E services - but the hospital was told it can't mesh the two funding streams together.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

If the funding streams are not brought together it leaves the hospital facing a huge dilemma - with the possibility of not having enough room for the whole rebuild plan or losing the £46m in funding for the urgent care hub.

Earlier this year Kettering MP Philip Hollobone urged ministers to 'get on with it' so the town could have a hospital it can be proud of.

And now Mr Hollobone and Wellingborough MP Peter Bone have raised the issue in the House of Commons again.

Mr Bone said: "I am delighted that one of the new Boris hospitals will be built on the site of Kettering General, starting with an accident and emergency department and with the whole hospital being finished by 2027.

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone.

"Unfortunately, there may well be a substantial delay to that because of red tape and bureaucracy.

"Will the Secretary of State use his great skills, bang some heads together, and get the pen-pushers and accountants to sort out the delay so that we can get on with this?"

Secretary of State Matt Hancock told Mr Bone that he would be happy to meet the north of the county's MPs to get the project moving.

And Mr Hollobone said: "The dilemma is this: if the hospital proceeds with the £46m urgent care hub build as a stand-alone project, there will not be room on the site for the HIP2 - health infrastructure plan 2 - development post 2025.

How the hospital could potentially look in the future – depending on how far it can progress its plans. The picture shows a view from Rothwell Road with a new entrance to hospital. Two of the three buildings on the skyline would be dependent on additional capital.

"On the other hand, if the hospital waits for the HIP2 funding, it will lose its £46m urgent care hub funding commitment, and the urgent replacement for the hospital’s overcrowded A&E may never happen."

He made four requests of the Department for Health and the Treasury in the House of Commons.

Mr Hollobone requested:

- permission for the hospital to draw down on the £46m urgent care hub funding commitment so that work can start on the initial works required for the project

- permission for the hospital to proceed with the preparation of its outline business case for the HIP2 investment expected after 2025

- an early advance of £52m, spread over the next three years, from the £350m HIP2 commitment, so that the urgent care hub can be built not as a stand-alone project, but as the initial part of the phased hospital redevelopment

- that the Secretary of State for Health honoured his commitment to meet the three MPs for north Northamptonshire to get the issues sorted out

Mr Hollobone said: "Those four asks are not about asking for extra money over and above that which has already been promised.

"Instead, they outline a sensible, flexible and dovetailed approach to already given funding commitments, so as to maximise value for money for the taxpayer while also ensuring that local people get to see as soon as possible the badly needed improvements to our local hospital, which we have already been promised."

He added: "This is not a difficult problem to solve. It requires a political solution and it requires a decision by Health and Treasury Ministers acting together."

Health minister Edward Argar said he would not be 'gently lured' into making a commitment on funding allocations for KGH.

He said: "Deciding the funding level for a project of this scale, at this early stage in the process, before full design, exploration or scoping is complete, would not be the most appropriate approach."

If the two pots the hospital has been promised are merged they would be used to build a new A&E department (which should be open in 2024), new assessment beds, 12 new wards, a dedicated blue light road and a new energy centre.

In November hospital bosses said they would be lobbying for more cash and that they needed a total of £765m to get to phase three of their overall plan, which they say would make a real difference.

With that cash it would also be able to replace the majority of wards, relocate critical care, create six new operating theatres, new imaging and diagnostic facilities and refurbish retained buildings, as well as other improvements.

It ruled out building a new hospital elsewhere because of a huge shortfall in funding and "crazy" interest charges, chief executive Simon Weldon revealed.