MP Liam Fox to raise axed Clevedon hospital plan in the Commons
A row over scrapping plans to build a new £15 million hospital in Clevedon is being taken to the House of Commons.
North Somerset Tory MP Liam Fox has promised campaigners he will seek an adjournment debate, which, if granted, will mean a health minister will be quizzed in the house about the issue.
Campaigners are furious that plans to build the new hospital were scrapped without warning in July – yet as late as the end of March, they were told the project was “on track”.
They are fully supported by Dr Fox, a qualified GP, who said it would be cheaper and more efficient to build a new hospital than provide health care in other ways for people in the Clevedon area.
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He told The Post: “We are unable to get to the bottom of exactly why the North Somerset PCT (primary care trust) has been so catastrophic on this. We suspect the most likely cause is bureaucratic bungling but we will not stop until we get the answers we are seeking.”
John Powell, treasurer of the Friends of Clevedon Hospital, said the group had tried to illicit information from the care trust without much success.
“We suspect that we are being penalised to fund other failing parts of the local NHS service, including Weston Hospital,” he said.
The Friends say for every person in the Clevedon area, the NHS spends £1,650 per year – yet the cost that everyone would annually pay towards a new hospital through their taxes would be only £4.
It emerged earlier this month that North Somerset PCT had been better off by more than £1 million in each of the past two years.
In 2010/11, the underspend was £1.6 million and last year, it was £1.06 million – yet the campaigners say the cost of a new hospital under a PFI arrangement would only be £850,000 a year.
Richard Darch, managing director of Amber Solutions for Care, the main contractor lined up to build the hospital, said he did not know anything about the scrapping of the plan until the announcement on July 19.
He said: “We were extremely surprised because our bid was predicated on the financial information that was given to us by the trust.”
The campaigners met privately with Dr Fox at the weekend to pool information they had each gathered about the PCT’s decision to scrap the hospital plans.
Mr Powell said they had asked the PCT for financial information under the Freedom of Information laws.
Unless valid reasons are given for not doing so, the information must be released within 20 working days.
But Mr Powell said they were told by the PCT that it would take three months to provide the information.
“Two months down the line – a fortnight ago – they began to release some of the information,” he said.
He said plans for the hospital had been approved by the cluster of PCTs which cover North Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
He said a financial analysis by professional consultants showed that the hospital project was viable.
Mary House, chair of the Friends, said the PCT had admitted the current hospital in Old Street which was built in 1874 was not fit for purpose and therefore should be replaced.
It has 18 beds as well as a minor injuries unit. The plans for the new hospital in Mill Cross included a 24-bed in-patient unit on the first floor, a counselling suite, admin block and therapy unit and garden. It was due to open in 2014.
Dr Fox said a public meeting would be held to discuss the outcome of the adjournment debate and discuss the findings.
NHS North Somerset says it is still committed to providing services for people in Clevedon and the surrounding area but needs to revisit its options. Health chiefs are due to report soon on ways in which health services should be provided.