New demands for action in King's Lynn hospital rebuild fight
"Get on with it!"
That's the message from campaigners and councillors this week as the fight to secure a new hospital for West Norfolk intensifies.
Activists are preparing to head to Westminster tomorrow to voice their concerns over the continuing delays to a decision on whether redevelopment of Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital will get Government backing.
And calls for an immediate commitment from ministers to the project are set to be debated by borough councillors next week.
Last September, the hospital submitted bids for inclusion in a secondary list of eight projects to be financed.
But there is growing unease at how long the bidding process is taking, with an announcement not now expected until after next month's local elections at the earliest.
Health Minister Edward Arger told a Westminster Hall debate led by the North West Norfolk MP James Wild last month that the selected schemes would be announced "later in the year".
He said he acknowledged the need for speed on the issue, but was "sensitive" to pre-election purdah conventions.
But Lynn and District Trades Council secretary Jo Rust said "excuse after excuse" was being offered for the delays.
She added: “Had the government kept to their own set of deadlines, we would have heard back in autumn last year whether our hospital had made the shortlist and then heard in the next few weeks, whether we’d been successful and could expect a new build to go up.
“As it is, the only progress that has been made is in the number of props keeping up the roof of the hospital. This is not acceptable.”
The latest update, issued last month, showed the number of props being used at the hospital had soared from 213 in November to 470.
The Trades Council, which plans to travel to Westminster for talks with MPs tomorrow, is also calling for a direct meeting with the Health Secretary Sajid Javid about the QEH and fears that developments such as the new Endoscopy Unit, on which building work began in February, could themselves be classed as a new hospital.
During the March debate, Mr Wild argued a new hospital was the only way to solve all of the problems currently facing the QEH.
He said: "By selecting QEH as one of the eight new hospital schemes, that inevitable need for replacement will become part of a funded programme, rather than an unplanned demand requiring repeated emergency funding.
"I urge the Government to include QEH as one of the schemes. The people of North West Norfolk and beyond deserve nothing less."
And that call is echoed by a motion tabled by independent councillor Alexandra Kemp to West Norfolk Council's latest meeting next Monday, April 25.
It warns the situation is now "critical" and urges the authority to lobby the government for "full funding for the rebuild, with an immediate start-date."
The motion adds: "King’s Lynn and West Norfolk is fully united around the need for a full replacement rebuild of the QEH."