Appeal to health minister over Midland Met Hospital delays
Sandwell councillors and local doctors are appealing Health Minister Stephen Barclay over the continuing delays facing the Midland Metropolitan Hospital.
The £350 million scheme, due to be completed this year, ground to a halt in January when contractor Carillion went into liquidation. The scheme, already falling behind, is not expected to be ready until 2022.
Now the Sandwell Health and Wellbeing Board has written to Mr Barclay, Minister of State at Department of Health and Social Care, to stress the importance of getting building work started again quickly, both for local health services and economic regeneration.
The board is made up of influential people from the council and NHS – including councillors and doctors responsible for planning and arranging health services – as well as a community representative.
The collapse of Carillion in January led to work stopping on site in Smethwick.
The board said the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust had proposed using an existing Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to get a new contractor to complete the hospital by 2020, but agreement could not be reached on funding this plan by the banks, Government and the trust.
At the end of May a consortium of banks, led by the European Investment Bank, pulled their £107m loan intended to fund the building work. Most of the money has gone and the banks expect to take a sizeable loss on the deal, but it leaves the project without the funding it needs to start up again.
Toby Lewis, the trust’s chief executive, told the Health and Wellbeing Board on Thursday that the trust was now working with the Government and other partners to get work started again as soon as possible and the hospital open by 2022. He said completing the hospital relied on securing either a new PFI scheme or bringing the project into public sector ownership.
He admitted the delays were 'very frustrating' but assured the board that everyone was still committed to building a 'super' new hospital which would serve the local community for decades to come.
Board chair Councillor Ann Shackleton, who is also Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for social care, said the board would now be writing to the Government to express its concerns about the delay, its impact on Sandwell people and regeneration and the rising costs resulting from the scheme taking longer than planned.
She said: “It’s really important we keep up the pressure on this – the sooner a new scheme can be agreed, the better it is for everyone. This is a hugely important and exciting scheme and it’s sad to see the site deteriorating while we all wait for work to start again.”