HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt has refused to be drawn over whether a decision will be made on funding for the Wynyard hospital before next year’s General Election.
Mr Hunt has defended delays to the planned £272m facility – insisting he must guard against another “PFI disaster”.
During a press conference by lobby journalists in Westminster, Mr Hunt said he was aware of “the popular support” for the project.
But he refused to confirm whether a decision would be made before next May’s general election, despite the application having been on his desk for a year.
Mr Hunt pointed to previous private finance initiative (PFI) schemes that had backfired at enormous expense to the taxpayer as the reason to tread cautiously.
Mr Hunt said: “I know what’s going on there, but I can’t say any more than to say it is under very close consideration.
“What I will say is that we are very careful about the business case for new hospitals now, because of the disasters we had with PFI under the last government.
“We ended up with a £73bn debt overhang in the NHS, a lot of which were very badly negotiated deals, so we really want to make sure the business case stacks up.”
Asked if a decision would come by the election, Mr Hunt said: “I’m very well aware of the need and of the popular support for that project. I can’t tell you an exact timescale, but we are on the case.”
The planned Wynyard hospital would replace the University Hospitals of Hartlepool and North Tees, in Stockton.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is seeking £100m of Government money to add to its PFI deal.
It comes as Hartlepool MP Iain Wright appears in the Hartlepool Mail on Wednesday, accusing the Government of “washing their hands” of the plan.