Fears that Sandwell hospital rescue plan will put taxpayers before patients

Fears that Sandwell hospital rescue plan will put taxpayers before patients

Fears that financial interests will be placed above those of patients have been raised as the health secretary decides if Sandwell’s stalled Midland Metropolitan Hospital will be given extra public cash.

The concerns follow a statement by the minster earlier this year that the Government had a duty to protect the taxpayer when considering any decision on the 650 bed building.

His remarks have prompted one health professional to say that any Government refusal to provide an extra £125 million for the acute medical centre would be ‘madness’.



The unfinished Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Sandwell.

The Metropolitan has stood empty and two thirds complete since the construction giant Carillion went bust in January.

Stephen Barclay’s remarks were made in June in a written reply to Sandwell Council after it raised concerns about the delays in the completion of the building.

His reply so alarmed the council that, in July, it issued a strongly worded statement calling for Government funding.

Cllr Ann Shackleton the cabinet member for social care, explained: “The Government’s response has caused genuine concern as it talks about ‘the need to protect the interests of taxpayers in any plan to finish the construction of the hospital’ but makes no reference to the needs of people who use NHS services in Sandwell.”

As Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care, Mr Barclay has the power to approve or reject any rescue package.

Last week, health bosses on Sandwell and West Birmingham Health Trust backed a recommendation for a £125 million taxpayer funded scheme to restart construction.

Dr John Clothier, the chair of Sandwell Healthwatch and a retired consultant orthopaedic surgeon, has backed the rescue package buts says he fears it might not win Government backing.

“The trouble about what will happen now is that when the council wrote to Stephen Barclay about the hospital he didn’t write back and say that we have to look after the patients, he said we have to look after the taxpayer,” he said.

He added: “Having built as much as we have done the cost is going to be around £400 million. To say we are not going to spend a bit extra to complete it is madness.”

Health bosses have said a decision on the recommendation for public funding is not expected until later this year.

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