Health minister visits KGH after funding 'progress'

Health minister Edward Argar visited KGH earlier today (Monday) to see the impact of increasing patient numbers on care at the overstretched hospital.

Monday, 7th October 2019, 5:16 pm
Health minister Edward Argar (right) with Kettering MP Philip Hollobone at KGH

The visit came after Kettering's MP Philip Hollobone invited a member of the Department for Health to come and see KGH in an urgent debate in Parliament last month when he spoke about the need for a £50m Urgent Care Hub but asked why the hospital had missed out in all major funding announcements.

It has since been announced that KGH NHS Foundation Trust will be one of 21 trusts to receive a share of £100m in seed funding, but this will not go towards the building of a new hub.

Health minister Edward Argar said: "Philip led a debate on September 3 highlighting the needs of the county but also the needs of this hospital trust and I know that they had put forward bids in the past, which sadly, haven't got over the line and haven't been successful.

KGH's A&E is struggling to cope with increasing patient numbers and is treating three times as many patients as it was built to cope with everyday

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"We walked through the buildings today and the staff are doing an amazing job to make them work, but some of those buildings are very dated, particularly when I was looking at the A&E.

"We need buildings that are fit for purpose, which gives the NHS staff the facilities to do the job."

The minister said the seed funding for KGH trust will allow them to develop existing plans for an urgent care hub, rather than to go towards building new facilities.

When asked if he was happy about the funding, Kettering MP Philip Hollobone said: "Last month, KGH wasn't on the list for major future investment. Now, we're on the list, so that is progress, but obviously everyone in Kettering wants the money [for an urgent care hub] to come sooner rather than later."

Phillip Hollobone MP has been campaigning for KGH and today's visit was a result of an urgent debate he called in September

KGH's A&E was built in the 1990s to accommodate 40,000 patients a year but now receives more than 90,000 a year, which is why the trust is seeking £50m in funding to build a new Urgent Care Hub.

The health minister said: "What this fund is for is seed funding to give them a chance to develop plans to put forward the full business case to the government and the treasury.

"So this money isn't to build the hospital and build the urgent care hub, this is about developing the case to make sure the plans are in place."

Speaking at the urgent debate he called in September, Kettering's MP Philip Hollobone said: "The hospital has developed a business case for a fit-for-purpose emergency care facility that will meet local population for the next 30 years.

"It was developed with all health and social care partners across Northamptonshire, so that patients can get a local urgent care service that meets all government guidance on good practice."

Mr Hollobone questioned in the debate why other hospitals without such plans had been awarded NHS capital funding when they did not have business cases, when KGH does.

KGH will now get a share of a £100m fund that will be split between 21 trusts. The minister said the process for deciding KGH's share of the fund is currently ongoing.

Asked why KGH was not one of the six hospitals sharing £2.7bn announced recently for new hospital projects, Mr Argar said: "Well, all of those were assessed very carefully to reflect their needs, because...there are a range of other hospitals and they’re all facing similar challenges, similar demands, so they were assessed rigorously against both need and patient needs, but also whether their business plans were ready and for want of a better word, shovel ready.

"Kettering has done a huge amount of work, that’s why this seed funding will be very important to develop their case to go forward to the next stage."

Mr Hollobone said he would continue to push for more funding.

He said: "We need £50m for the urgent care hub, that is the immediate priority. So the campaign is to get that funding first of all, if we can get anything else on top, that'll be good.

"Locally, we are all united, it doesn't matter what political party we support, we all want extra funding for KGH. My job, on behalf of local people, is to be a persistent pain in the neck to the government to press the case for more investment in the hospital.

KGH's chief executive, Simon Weldon, said: "I am delighted that the minister has taken the opportunity to visit Kettering General Hospital in order to see for himself the impact on patients and their care, of an ageing estate that requires expansion and in some parts a complete rebuild to cope with current patient levels.

"We particularly wanted him to see the pressure our urgent care and A&E facilities are under at a time when we are pursuing investment in an Urgent Care Hub for the site to improve emergency care for the people of north Northamptonshire."

Mr Argar said: "It’s fantastic to be here in Kettering to speak to staff about how the seed funding we’re providing the trust will help put their plans into action to upgrade Kettering hospital and deliver high-quality care to patients in Northamptonshire."