A NEW hospital for Hartlepool will likely not open until 2017 at the earliest it has emerged – two years behind the original planned opening.
Health bosses have announced that they are starting an 18-month process to procure builders as they still bid to secure £300m of private funding.
They have hailed it as an “important milestone” towards the opening of the hospital at Wynyard.
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But they admitted it could be late 2016 or early 2017 before the hospital opens its doors.
Paul Garvin, chairman of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said the plans had been put back by more than two years.
He said “the rug was pulled out” from their feet when the new coalition government axed £464m of public funding earmarked by the previous Labour government.
“We have spent the last two and a half years trying to come up with a new funding model,” said Mr Garvin.
The trust also said their hopes will depend on the financial position when the tendering process has ended in 18 months.
It is another blow to the people of Hartlepool and East Durham who had been told a new hospital would be opened in 2014 according to original estimates.
It means another two years of people needing to travel to the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton for certain treatments.
Trust leaders said the new hospital will be the “final piece of the jigsaw” in efforts to transform local health services.
The Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme aims to provide treatment closer to people’s homes with patients only critically ill patients going into hospital.
Alan Foster, trust chief executive, said: “It is excellent to get to another important milestone so we can continue to transform care and care pathways, make the improvements in quality and safety that our patients need and deserve, and look forward towards the opening of the new hospital which will be flagship in terms of function and design to last for future generations.”
Over the next 18 months, the trust will invite bids from major construction firms all over Europe to build the hospital.
It will also look to secure the best funding deal, expected to come from major pension funds.
Mr Garvin said: “We know there is a willingness from pension funds to loan us the money.
“Now we will go out to try to secure the best deal possible so we are able to spend as much money we can on patient services.”
Mr Garvin also tried to reassure people worried about losing Hartlepool’s hospital.
He said the new hospital will provide “world class” facilities and the trust would subsidise public transport for people without cars.
But he added: “The time has come when our hospital buildings are reaching their sell by date and really we can’t continue to operate them safely and efficiently. We need to move ahead to a new future.”
The trust said it will review the situation at the end of the procurement process before it borrows the money, awards contracts and start building.