Hospital talks hopeful

HOSPITAL chiefs say they are “encouraged” by early discussions to use pension funds to build a new £300m hospital at Wynyard.

Plans to build the new hospital were hit with a delay after it emerged that a decision on government backing is not expected until July at the earliest.

Officials from the Department of Health said officials are still considering the outline business case for the £300m site.

Meanwhile, the government is also carrying out a major review of using private sector funding for major developments, known as private finance initiative (PFI).

As a result the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is looking at alternative sources of funding for the new hospital, including pension funds.

It comes after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said NHS bosses had to “take responsibility” for funding a hospital at Wynyard themselves.

Mr Lansley refused a funding request from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust two years ago for the new hospital but he said the Trust has come forward with better and more appropriate plans.

The Trust is currently waiting to hear if it will be allowed to go-ahead with the PFI route or use money from pension funds to build the hospital.

Alan Foster, chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We welcome the Secretary of State for Health’s comments about plans for the new hospital.

“It is worth remembering that when the funding was withdrawn the need for the hospital was not questioned, just the way it was going to be funded.

“We have been working hard to identify alternative sources of funding which are value for money for the taxpayer.

“Early discussions with pension funds have been encouraging.”