HEALTH bosses face a possible three-month delay for the go-ahead to build a new £300m hospital at Wynyard.
Hospital chiefs at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust had hoped to get Government approval for the plans before Christmas.
But they fear the decision from the Treasury could be affected by a 12-week review by Chancellor George Osborne of Public Finance Initiative (PFI) Schemes, the method planned to fund the Wynyard hospital.
It has also been revealed that reception staff at One Life Hartlepool face a training programme to improve customer relations at the Park Road facility and to give them more information about how to direct people to the correct place for medical attention.
News of the training and the potential hospital delay was revealed at a board meeting of the hospital trust held at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in Holdforth Road, yesterday.
The PFI review, to begin on December 1, comes after it emerged that some hospital trusts were struggling to meet their repayments.
Alan Foster, trust chief executive, said: “My only worry is if it delays a decision until the review is completed But we are still getting positive noises from the Department of Health.
“We believe the outcome will be a better, stronger PFI policy and one that will support our scheme.”
Mr Foster said improvements the Treasury aim to include in future schemes are measures that the trust has already built into its business case.
The trust is seeking clarification over whether its case will be affected by the review. But Mr Foster said it looked unlikely they would get a decision before Christmas.
The review aims to create a new model for using private-sector expertise to deliver public projects at a lower cost to the taxpayer.
PFI was introduced under the John Major Government in 1992 and widely used by Labour to obtain private money to fund major projects in the public sector.
But the scheme has come under criticism over costs, with taxpayers facing escalating bills over PFI contracts which usually last for decades.