Hope for hospital funding decision

An artist's impression of the planned hospital
An artist's impression of the planned hospital

HOSPITAL bosses remain hopeful that a decision on funding for a new £300m hospital at Wynyard will be made in June.

Plans by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to build the new hospital were hit with a delay after it emerged a decision on government backing was not expected until July at the earliest.

Officials from the Department of Health are still considering the outline business case and there is an ongoing government review into using private sector funding for major developments, known as private finance initiative (PFI).

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That led to hospital chiefs looking at alternative sources of funding, including pension funds.

Pension fund companies lend money and charge interest – similar to a mortgage – and at the end of the lending period the building would belong to the Trust.

Senior health bosses say talks are going well and they are hoping that by June, the trust’s board of directors will be in a position to make a decision.

Kevin Oxley, lead director for the new hospital, said: “We have been working hard to find alternative ways we could pay for the new hospital.

“As an NHS Foundation Trust we can do this and, if we are successful in getting support from a pension fund we would not need approval from the government to go ahead.

“This is because the pension fund we are having discussions with at the moment say they do not need the government to act as guarantor.

“Pension fund companies already lend money to further education and other public sector bodies.

“They lend money and charge interest, much like a mortgage, and, at the end of the lending period, the building becomes ours.

“We are hopeful that by June this year our board of directors will be in a position to make a decision about the funding.

“After that we would begin the procurement process which, under European rules, takes around 18 months.

“Then building would begin with the hospital opening three years later.”

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley refused a funding request from the trust two years ago for the new hospital but he recently said the trust has come forward with better and more appropriate plans.

The new hospital at Wynyard would replace the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.