PLANS to build a new hospital for Hartlepool and East Durham look to have flat-lined as the land earmarked for the development is to be sold back to the original owner.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust says the multi-million pound site, which was earmarked for the potential building of the new hospital at Wynyard, is being re-sold back to Wynyard Park Limited.
It is linked to the original land sale agreement made back in 2010 and the re-sale of the land must be made by tomorrow.
The site’s sale five years ago had a number of conditions attached to it, one was the trust being able to secure funding to build the new hospital, which it has been unable to do.
The news, which will come as a huge blow to thousands of people in the town, could be a final nail in the coffin of the hospital plans, following last October’s announcement by trust bosses that they were shelving the £300m development at Wynyard after failing to secure £100m funding from the Government to build it before the General Election.
Hospital campaigners, town MP Iain Wright and the Mail’s Bring Them Back campaign all called for services to be urgently reinstated to the University Hospital of Hartlepool, but the trust’s chief executive Alan Foster said they would not return and could not rule out further provisions being stripped away.
The arrangements to sell the land back was made to ensure the money could be brought back into the NHS if necessary and did not leave the trust with a piece of land it could do nothing withAlan Foster
Trust bosses say they still believe a new hospital in the centre of the area is the best option, but as that has not come to fruition then services have had to be centralised at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, for safety and quality reasons.
They say pooling staff and doctors, such as intensive care, at one site is safer for patients.
Discussions about the shape of services being offered at both hospital sites in the future are now under way.
Today, Mr Foster said: “The trust has a land sale agreement with Wynyard Park Limited, which has an option for the trust to sell the land back to Wynyard Park Limited if the trust cannot satisfy the conditions of the land sale agreement, the main one being having started work on site.
“The trust is exercising the option to sell the land back to Wynyard Park Limited, which we have to do by May 12.”
The Mail put several questions to the trust to which it gave answers as follows:
Just to confirm, does the above statement mean that you are selling the land back to Wynyard Park?
“Yes, the original land sale agreement of May 2010 had a number of conditions. One was to have planning permission, which we had. Another was to have secured the funding, which – with the withdrawal of public dividend capital – we were unfortunately unable to do. This meant another condition, starting the work on site before 12 May, could not be met.
“In 2010 when the agreement was made, not long after public dividend capital had been promised by a previous government, we were very optimistic about starting work on site well before 2015. However, the arrangements to sell the land back was made to ensure the money could be brought back into the NHS if necessary and did not leave the trust with a piece of land it could do nothing with.”
Is the trust no longer pursuing the option of a new hospital?
“We believe the new hospital is still the right thing to do for the people of Hartlepool, Stockton and parts of Easington and Sedgefield. When the Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme was launched it recognised the changing needs of the population, that far more care would be provided outside hospital, but a new purpose-built hospital in a central location would meet the needs of future generations.
“While there have been reviews in the private finance initiative and delays with funding, time has not stood still, medicine continues to advance and safety and quality standards become, quite rightly, ever higher. Momentum, and the new hospital which was part of it, recognised this. However because we have not been able to achieve the new hospital, services have had to be centralised to meet quality and safety requirements.”
What will now happen to Hartlepool’s hospital?
“Discussions were under way before the election, and they will continue, to offer as many services as it’s safe to do so at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.”
As services are continually being moved away from Hartlepool, does this mean that there will eventually only be North Tees left? Or will some services be moved back to Hartlepool as a result of this news about the land sale?
“It is too early to say what the shape of services on both hospital sites will be. However discussions are under way with health and social care partners as well as patient representative groups.”