Inquiry over delay to hospital wing

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The Independent Online

Public Policy Editor

The National Audit Office is to launch a full investigation into a four- year delay and huge cost over-runs at a proposed new wing to Guy's Hospital, in south London. The former Philip Harris House, once proclaimed as a flagship, state-of-the-art creation, is fast becoming the biggest building disaster in the health service's history.

The NAO - the Government spending watchdog - confirmed it is to follow up a preliminary investigation with a full inquiry into the reasons for delay and cost over-runs in a project now expected to be four years late and to have cost pounds 152m, almost double the original pounds 79m estimate.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey, claimed figures he has been provided with show that the NHS Trust has "wasted" millions following the latest round of negotiations with the contractors Higgs and Hills.

He said the trust has written-off pounds 5m in penalties for missed completion deadlines, and agreed another pounds 2m to complete a building now known as Phase Three after Sir Philip Harris withdrew a promised pounds 6m donation when its use was changed as part of the controversial merger of Guy's and St Thomas's hospitals.

Mr Hughes said: "The building will be four years late and yet instead of the trust being compensated by the builders they are actually paying out. It is a scandal that it has taken so long for it to be completed when we are crying out for the services it is meant to provide."