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Julie Marson claims new Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow will be completed five years from now





Bishop’s Stortford MP Julie Marson’s claim that a new Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) will be completed by 2028 “beggars belief”, according to her opponents at the next General Election.

The new Harlow medical facilities – the closest general hospital to Bishop’s Stortford – were first promised in 2019. Mrs Marson stood in that year’s General Election on a Conservative manifesto pledge to deliver 40 “new” hospitals across the country by 2030.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay reiterated the 2030 deadline when he told the House of Commons last Thursday (May 25) that in the past “the average time from design to completion of a major hospital has been around 11.5 years”.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay

Specifying Harlow’s inclusion, he said: “Today’s announcement confirms these schemes will proceed and will be fully funded. By embracing modern methods of construction, we will massively speed up the construction phase.”

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) wants to build on a site near Sheering, off junction 7a of the M11.

The spiralling cost of replacing dilapidated and outdated facilities at PAH, freeing the 1960s site in the centre of Harlow for new homes, has risen to an estimated £850m.

Artist's impression of the new Princess Alexandra Hospital at Harlow
Artist's impression of the new Princess Alexandra Hospital at Harlow

Mrs Marson said: “I am delighted we will get a new Princess Alexandra Hospital. This is huge news for people across Hertford and Stortford who rely on its vital services.

“I have pushed the Government to deliver on this promise since my election as MP and I am thrilled to share this fantastic result.”

A statement on her website adds: “The Princess Alexandra Hospital will be rebuilt using a standardised hospital blueprint, whilst also making sure it is tailored to local needs. This ensures value for the taxpayer and that work on the hospital can begin as soon as 2025, ready for its completion in 2028.”

Helen Campbell, Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Hertford and Stortford, said: “There is still little sign of these 40 new hospitals that have been endlessly announced and reannounced since the last General Election.

Liberal Democrat Helen Campbell, who will face Julie Marson at the next General Election
Liberal Democrat Helen Campbell, who will face Julie Marson at the next General Election

“It is a hammer blow for patients being treated in crumbling wards and nurses working in dangerous conditions. It’s a national scandal our hospitals are being left in this state.

“It is to be welcomed that the new Harlow hospital appears to have funding confirmed, but there will be no spades in the ground for years to come. In 2019 it was going to be opened in 2024, then last year it was going to be 2028 and they now claim it will be open in 2030. Frankly, this feels like pie in the sky.”

Nick Cox, the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Hertford and Stortford, also welcomed the funding confirmation but warned: “The planning application has not been submitted and we await the full business case. The land for the site hasn’t been purchased and the project cost, estimated last year at £850m, was already £250m over budget.

Nick Cox, Julie Marson's Green Party opponent at the next General Election
Nick Cox, Julie Marson's Green Party opponent at the next General Election

“It beggars belief that the Government is trying to convince us they can solve all these issues in about six years when it usually takes more than 11 years to build a new hospital.

“Are those behind this announcement serious, or is it simply a mendacious ‘promise’, to be quietly shelved after the General Election?”

The planned location at Sheering was also a problem for Mr Cox: “Healthcare should lie at the heart of the community. The bizarre choice of location will force people, many of whom will be elderly or infirm, to drive or take long, slow journeys on public transport to reach it.

“Travelling to and from this vital service should be easy, quick and sustainable rather than pushing people into cars. This is last-century thinking.”

Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow
Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow

He said that the new announcement represented a strategic failure in healthcare provision for residents in East Herts, which “has one of the worst healthcare provisions in the country” with no accident and emergency department.

Stortford’s Herts and Essex Hospital, which once had 1,900 beds, lost its casualty department in 1990. Mr Cox said services at Hertford County Hospital and Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City were cut back on the understanding that a university teaching hospital would be established in Hatfield. However, that project was cancelled, with inpatient and emergency services transferred to the Lister Hospital at Stevenage in 2014.

He said that with the replacement of PAH planned “well beyond Harlow”, residents of East Herts were being short-changed again.

Hertford and Stortford Labour Party’s Josh Dean
Hertford and Stortford Labour Party’s Josh Dean

Hertford and Stortford Labour’s parliamentary spokesperson, Josh Dean, said: “Time and again the Tories have made empty promises to NHS patients and staff. The Health Secretary himself has struggled to answer questions about the Government’s so-called 40 new hospitals.

“Originally expected in 2024-25, the date for the new PAH has been pushed back until 2030. Once again, hard-working NHS staff have been let down by a Tory Government offering a half-baked slogan rather than a proper plan for the future. Patients and staff are in need of improved provision now, but are again being asked to wait longer.

“A Labour Government will build an NHS fit for the future, delivering the biggest expansion of the NHS workforce in its history and outfitting them with the technology they need to ensure patients receive the care they deserve.”

The Indie asked Mrs Marson and PAHT to provide further details of the building programme and completion date for the new hospital, but none was forthcoming.



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