Doncaster 'in running for new hospital' but no decision likely until 2022
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Doncaster is ‘very much in the running’ for a new hospital but the decision on whether or not one is awarded could be as late as early 2022.
The PM, responding to a question from Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher, was buoyant about Doncaster’s chances of securing funding for a new hospital planned for the town’s Waterfront close to Doncaster College.
But ministers already rejected the borough’s bid in the first round and 40 hospitals in other locations were chosen, the majority in the south of England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock even made his first official visit outside the Westminster bubble since the 2019 election to the borough to meet Mr Fletcher at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
The next round of bidding, which is understood to start in October this year, will only yield eight new hospitals.
When pushed, a spokesman for the Department for Health, said bidding would start ‘soon’ and remained tight-lipped on a further timeline. But it is also understood a decision is not likely until 2022.
Doncaster NHS trust bosses, with the backing of Labour, Conservative politicians and an array of public and private sector partners, have compiled a comprehensive plan of what the hospital will include.
They are also planning to launch a comprehensive new bid when the criteria is announced in the coming months.
One of the stand out figures is the cost – it’s estimated the full cost could be as much as £934 million.
The project itself seems to be well justified and this is evident in the trust which runs DRI who says it spends up to five per cent of its annual budget on maintenance alone and the repairs backlog stands at a whopping £60 million.
In 2019/2020, the trust spent £11.2 million on maintenance alone and 600 jobs are outstanding to get the hospital up to scratch.
The current hospital was built in 1930 with further expansion in the 1960s is not fit for the 21st century, say bosses.
Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Teaching Hospitals, Richard Parker, said: “The site requires a significant capital investment each year just to ensure it remains safe.
“This means we are not moving forward while our maintenance backlog continues to creep, and is currently within the worst 15 per cent of all hospitals in the UK.
The site’s emergency department was built to deal with a peak of around 200 patients – daily we care for an average of 350 to 400 patients.
Hospital bosses have also said there is ‘extreme pressure’ on power supplies due to a system that is over 50 years old.
Planning permission also ‘makes it impossible’ to build a multi-storey car park to accommodate more than 3,000 health professionals and the site is land-locked, meaning that further expansion is no longer possible.
Another aspect of the site would be the construction of a higher education university campus which would house and train the next generation of NHS frontline workers likely in partnership with both universities down the road in Sheffield.
The new site would be built to the highest environmental standards, be ready and equipped for future pandemics and provide state-of-the-art facilities for staff and patients.
The location itself is also seen as a strong and sustainable option. On a number of bus routes on the edge of the town centre, the site at Waterfront is also said to be one of the largest brownfield sites in the country.
In a joint statement, Mr Miliband and Dame Rosie Winterton said it was time the Government delivered for Doncaster and were not warmed by Johnson’s words following on from the previous snub in the past.
“The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary came to Doncaster in the run up to the 2019 General Election and said there was a strong case for a new hospital in Doncaster.
“Despite those assurances we were not included in the 40 new hospitals announced last year despite being ‘very much in the running’.
“All we have been told is that we can put in a bid for the next round at some time in the Autumn.
“Nothing new was announced by the Prime Minister. It is time they delivered for the people of Doncaster.
A Department for Health spokesman said: “In October 2020 we confirmed funding for 40 new hospitals, with a further eight schemes to be identified through an open process for future funding to deliver 48 hospitals by 2030.
“We will shortly announce criteria and process for the further eight schemes to be included in the New Hospitals Programme. Once launched, we would welcome proposals from all NHS Trusts who feel they meet the agreed criteria.”