CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'MP DEMANDS ANSWERS ON HOSPITAL PLAN'

By Peter East

Southern Daily Echo – 1 February 2002

New Forest East MP Julian Lewis has asked the Government for assurances that plans for a new hospital at Lymington will not be hit by the latest NHS shake-up. Plans for the 113-bed hospital suffered a jolt when a Private Finance Initiative was blocked by the Government. But the New Forest Primary Care Trust, which has taken over the project from Southampton Community Health Services NHS Trust, has been working on a new set of proposals.

Dr Lewis expressed his fears in the Commons this week, however, that there could be even more stumbling blocks. With the new Hampshire and Isle of Wight Strategic Health Authority taking over from the Southampton and South West Hants Health Authority at the end of March, he quizzed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Hazel Blears on the issue.

"Is she (Ms Blears) aware,"

he asked,

"of the New Forest Primary Care Trust's concern that there is a risk that the funding allocated for the new hospital under the existing health authority might not be car­ried forward as a commitment by the new health authority?"

He added:

"The trust is also worried that what might be termed planning blight will add to the hold-ups that have bedevilled the project for so many years. Can the minister give a reassurance that the New Forest will not lose out in funding and suffer further delays as a result of the changeover to the new health authority?"

Ms Blears said the trust planned to sub­mit its outline business case to the NHS next month. She then described the moves towards the new hospital as "another example of deliv­ery" which would "be a wonderful enhancement to the gentleman's (Dr Lewis's) community".

But Dr Lewis described the answer as "rather vague" and said he would be writ­ing in a bid to obtain "firmer commit­ment".