Interest ‘will cost twice as much as hospital’ - campaigner

An artist's impression of the new hospital
An artist's impression of the new hospital
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A HEALTH campaigner has slammed plans for a new £300m hospital, claiming it will cost hospital bosses more than twice as much to pay back interest on private money needed to fund it.

Hartlepool councillor Geoff Lilley says it will cost the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust £22m a year for 30 years to pay back the interest on the £299m private finance initiative it is using to build a new hospital at Wynyard.

He claims this money could be used elsewhere on vital health services, including on doctors and nurses, or even on investing in retaining the current University Hospital of Hartlepool and University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.

But the trust says savings of at least £160m will be made through other means, including the amalgamating the services of both sites into one hospital at Wynyard.

The Mail reported yesterday that the trust’s board of directors met to approve scaled-down plans for the new hospital, after the Government withdrew public cash for the scheme last summer.

Financial implications in a report to Thursday’s meeting say the funding scheme “generates net increase in capital charges of £21.9m inclusive of PFI unit charge based on current marketing rates”.

Coun Lilley, also a founder member of the Save Our Hospital group, said: “Initially, we were told we would get a new state-of-the-art hospital costing £460m, but they are reducing the cost to £299m.

“That is a tremendous saving, but will we still get a ‘super-duper’ hospital?

“The cost of interest alone for the private funding is going to be £22m a year for 30 years.

“That money is coming out of trust money and therefore money that could be spent on NHS budgets.”

He criticised the location of Wynyard as being “away from the communities, in the middle of nowhere”.

Coun Lilley said the trust will not contribute to public transport subsidies to and from the new hospital.

But a trust spokeswoman said £10.5m has been set aside for transport. The spokeswoman added: “We will be generating some huge savings from running one site instead of two.

“In no way are we short-changing people and building something sub-standard here.

“Our priority is to make sure patients get better facilities. There has never been an intention to compromise patient care.”

The spokeswoman added savings include £66m VAT to be claimed back on the private money, £34m from the sale of the two hospitals, with the remainder leased or provided through a managed equipment service contract, £40m through some hospital buildings being leased separately and £20m by re-organising wards and rooms to reduce the building by one storey.