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Government must give green light to Midland Met completion - NHS chief

By Richard Guttridge | Sandwell | Health | Published:

An NHS boss has called on the Government to "turn words into action" by giving the green light for a new contractor to complete the partially-built Midland Metropolitan Hospital.

Sandwell NHS trust chief executive Toby Lewis, right, at the Midland Met with MP John Spellar

Toby Lewis, chief executive of Sandwell's NHS trust, said he was "troubled" by how long it was taking ministers to give their approval to allow work to continue on the super-hospital in Smethwick.

No fresh work has been done on the hospital since the collapse of original builder Carillion in January 2018. Balfour Beatty, which is carrying out early works, is now waiting in the wings to complete the job.

The Midland Met is due to open in 2022, three years later than planned.

Mr Lewis said the approval was "certainly" needed by the end of August.

He said: "Local people have been waiting a long time for a new hospital and we're all determined to get Midland Met open before the Commonwealth Games.

"The approval we need ideally in July but certainly by the end of August. We're running behind with those approvals.

"We are nearly there with approvals from a body called NHS Midlands and the Department of Health and Social Care (who) have had the Midland Met full business case with our recommendation to proceed with Balfour Beatty now for six weeks and we're working with them to see how many more weeks it will take before we get the approval we need."

Mr Lewis said he was particularly frustrated given the £358 million business case approved by the Treasury last December was consistent with the bid sent off for approval.

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Asked whether he was concerned with the Government's rate of progress with the distractions of Brexit and a Conservative leadership race, Mr Lewis responded: "The business case is with civil servants and I know ministers are absolutely committed to getting Midland Met built. What we need to do is to turn words into action and get this business case approved.

"Infrastructure is really important to this country at the moment, we hear that a lot. Midland Met is a fantastic infrastructure project, it's going to bring lots of jobs to the area so we need to get an approval in place.

"We are troubled by the fact that it taking longer than we had been told it would to get this business case formally approved."

The chief executive suggested the sign off was crucial if further delays are to be avoided.

He said: "We need to get this approval through. It isn't the case that this is just a bureaucratic exercise - it matters.

"Balfour Beatty are working with us on our early works contract. But for Balfour Beatty to complete the job we need this approval and we need to be able to sign the contract that local people have been promised by the current Prime Minister, by this trust."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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