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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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£20m shortfall fears over West Cumberland Hospital upgrade

Campaigners are backing calls for the Government to stump up more money to upgrade Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital.

West Cumberland Hospital photo
West Cumberland Hospital

The area’s MPs have jointly written to new health secretary Jeremy Hunt asking for a further £20m to address what they say is a shortfall.

The Rev John Bannister, spokesman for the Save Our Services campaign group, has welcomed the move.

He said this additional funding would ensure that even those parts of the Hensingham hospital which aren’t being rebuilt could still be upgraded to a high standard.

“That would mean the whole hospital will be modern and up to date,” he said.

They say that the original budget for the hospital redevelopment was slashed. As a result they fear that the money now allocated will not be enough to complete the project as planned.

Of the original £100m pledged, £10m was lost when the NorthWest Regional Development Agency was abolished.

Now incoming bosses from Northumbria, who are taking over the trust, fear that worsening finances mean they will not be able to commit to their full £10m share of the total £90m rebuild fund.

The west Cumbrian MPs want the health secretary to help meet the shortfall.

Mr Cunningham said: “We should not forget that the original total expected for the new hospital was £150m.

“We need to make sure that not only are we getting the best hospital we can but also the best equipment – including the most up-to-date screening equipment – within that hospital.”

Gillian Troughton, who represents Copeland council on the hospital stakeholder group, said she had only just been made aware that there could be such a shortfall.

“We have of course been aware that there was a reduced budget for the building work itself but this was not anticipated to impact on the budget for fitting out,” she said.

“We have always fought for a hospital equipped and suitable for Copeland in the 21st century. If there is now a financial problem in completing the project to a satisfactory standard we would back Jamie Reed’s call for additional money to do so.”

She vowed to raise the issue when she meets with hospital bosses next week.

Although Rev Bannister said that the additional funding would be welcome, he stressed that the priority must be to see work start on site quickly.

Building work on the new hospital is planned to start this year and finish by the end of November 2014, opening to patients by May 2015.

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