HOSPITAL bosses will meet with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt today to discuss the Government part-funding a new £300m hospital at Wynyard.
Alan Foster, chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, is due to hold private talks with Mr Hunt, the Government’s Secretary of State for Health, in London, about funding arrangements for the hospital which would replace sites in Hartlepool and Stockton.
Health chiefs have refused to comment on the details of the meeting but say they are currently “exploring all funding options”, although it is understood one option could see the Government help part-fund the project alongside private funding.
The new hospital is set to open to patients in 2017, two years later than originally planned after public funding for the scheme was suddenly withdrawn when the Coalition government came into power.
That led to the Trust looking into a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) arrangement before talks with pension fund companies as the PFI route stalled.
The meeting with Mr Hunt comes as members of Hartlepool’s health and wellbeing board - which includes council and health officials - pledged to write a letter supporting plans to build the new state-of-the-art site on the outskirts of town.
Chief executive Dave Stubbs and director of public health Louise Wallace will also write endorsing the plans, to show there is support in town for the proposals, which would see the new hospital replace the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees.
But the letter will also state the town’s desire to see as many services remain in Hartlepool until the Wynyard project is complete.
Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive, said: “The feeling in London is that the more support from local people, the more advantage we get and it belays the feeling what we don’t want it, that we are fighting so hard for the old hospital that we don’t want the new one.
“All I ask is will the board support sending a letter so that Alan Foster can take it with him to the meeting?
“We all want a hospital in Hartlepool and we have to make sure that the new hospital is built as soon as possible, within the grounds of Hartlepool.”
One board member questioned Mr Stubbs and said all they had heard from residents is that they are not happy with losing the current hospital site in Holdforth Road.
Mr Stubbs said: “I can’t believe anybody in Hartlepool or East Durham does not want a new state-of-the-art hospital.
“If we don’t get that here then everybody will be going to a hospital south of Hartlepool.”
Health chiefs have stressed that they have not confirmed what would happen if Wynyard doesn’t go-ahead.
Chief executive of Hartlepool & District Hospice and board member Tracy Woodall said she “couldn’t categorically” say that was the opinion of the people of Hartlepool.
Labour councillor Carl Richardson, who chaired the meeting said: “It is very important that we have this hospital and get moving as soon as possible.”
Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley who said he has been “fighting for 10 years” to Hartlepool hospital added: “I understand where Dave Stubbs is coming from and the reality is that if we don’t get the new hospital the plan B is North Tees.
“I’m not saying don’t send the letter but it is not exactly my views and that is putting it mildly.”
Labour councillor Ged Hall said: “Hospitals, like all infrastructure, need to be replaced and I believe that the new hospital is the best possible option for Hartlepool and Stockton.
“This is the best we are going to get in the circumstances.”
Coun Richardson added: “We want to try and retain as many services in Hartlepool as possible but we also have to think about the future and we need this hospital to be built within the boundaries of Hartlepool.”
A Trust spokeswoman confirmed the private meeting was taking place today and said they are currently “exploring all funding options”.
Mr Foster was at the health and well-being meeting but declared an interest and left before the rest of the board pledged their support for the plans.