A NEW ‘world class’ acute hospital near Horsham with full A&E services, maternity centre and intensive care unit remains Francis Maude’s vision for his constituents.
Speaking to the County Times this week, Horsham’s MP - who also gave his thoughts on Broadridge Heath leisure centre, the north Horsham development, new planning legislation, fracking in West Sussex and on Southwater free school in this week’s paper - stated a new hospital is ‘within touching point’ but the finer aspects of delivery are still to be determined.
Mr Maude said: “We will renew our efforts to get it resolved.”
And he confirmed the project is something he is personally championing, saying: “I have been for a long time and will continue to do so.” However, the member of David Cameron’s inner circle believes the involvement of Horsham district, Crawley borough and West Sussex county councils is instrumental in making any new hospital with A&E facilities a reality.
Mr Maude said a new ‘innovative’ means of delivery is required, but was scant on details as to how to secure the A&E element – always the most costly of any hospital operation.
His vision is neither an NHS hospital, nor a strictly private facility, but some new hybrid.
He said: “Just because this wouldn’t be an NHS hospital as such, doesn’t mean that it’s purely private.
“We’ve always envisaged that a new hospital, done in this way which would be very innovative, and would be a partnership between the local councils, the ones who’ve been involved in Crawley and Horsham and West Sussex County Council, potentially an NHS Foundation Trust and the private sector.”
Mr Maude suggested a company like Circle Healthcare, which recently became the first private company to manage an NHS hospital in Cambridgeshire ‘would have the right kind of feel to it’ because it is ‘half owned by its staff’.
“But involvement of the local authorities is crucial to giving it a sense that this is a hospital for the community with some real ownership by local authorities on behalf of the community,” continued Mr Maude.
The cabinet office minister stated he intended to sit down with his fellow cabinet colleague Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at the Department of Health to discuss a way forward.
But he also warned that he believes a new hospital for Horsham is ‘not primarily a decision for the Government’.
He said: “I do not want the Government to write out a huge cheque for there to be a new hospital – this is not going to happen. Nor do I want there to be a classic PFI private finance initiative.
“There is a much better way of doing it, which is to have it both owned and run by a non NHS organisation, or non wholly NHS organisation.”
He added: “What I want the Government to do, what I wanted the last Government to do, is simply to enable this to happen, which is why the remaining issue is simply around how do you pay for the A&E part of it, because without an A&E you won’t have intensive care, you therefore won’t be able to have maternity and all those other things.”
Mr Maude reiterated the need for a new hospital in the Horsham area, lambasting East Surrey hospital, both in terms of the care it provides, as well as its location.
He said: “The hospital services that my constituents have to put up with are lamentable and inconvenient.”
He stated that half of Redhill’s East Surrey hospital patients came from West Sussex, and said: “Even if East Surrey got its act together and started to be a brilliant four star rated hospital it is still in the wrong place.”
So was Mr Maude therefore delighted when a new site for a hospital was earmarked off Langhurstwood Road as part of the 4,500 home north Horsham development, first revealed by the County Times in January?
“If it can be made to happen,” he said, his enthusiasm for a new hospital dampened in the context of the 4,500 home development proposal that has in recent weeks brought the hospital issue to the fore again.
The controversial plans include a new business park, new commuter railway station, schools and sports facilities in addition to thousands of dwellings. In total it could increase the population of Horsham by 25 per cent.
Mr Maude commented: “One of the things with new developments is that the district council has to make planning decisions.
“We are a localist government – the coalition government is very committed to it.”
He added though that the disadvantage of most housing developments is that they often only benefit the new community, with Section 106 funds, or community benefit money from the developers to local authorities, only going towards infrastructure serving the new houses.
But could the proposed North Horsham development help to fund a new hospital for the wider community?
“Well the Section 106 money could be provided towards the capital cost,” said Mr Maude. “And because we’ve always seen a new hospital here as being one in which the local authorities would be very committed partners, they could contribute towards the financing as well,” said Mr Maude.
However, HDC this week said: “It’s too premature to comment on any financial arrangements with regards to a hospital until future plans emerge.”
But the spokesperson did also confirm: “Horsham District Council has been proactively looking at ways in which it can help secure an acute A&E hospital in the area, along with improving and influencing the existing level of healthcare currently provided to local residents.
“We have been working with neighbouring local authorities and engaging in discussions with various healthcare providers.”
Bob Lanzer, leader of Crawley Borough Council added: “We are still supportive of the idea of a new acute hospital with A&E facilities to serve the people of Crawley and north Horsham.
“However, it is a bit too early to start to address the financing, but what I would say is that with the Government grant to the council being significantly reduced, this does make it far more difficult to work out where any money would come from.”