Hospital building cash 'was wasted'

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Indy Politics
THE Department of Health will be criticised in a report by the cross-party Public Accounts Committee for waste of public money over the building of the pounds 240m Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London.

Ministers have privately admitted that the 665-bed hospital was a 'white elephant' before it was opened. Sir John Bourne, Comptroller and Auditor General, told the committee the delays led to a cost overrun of pounds 100m from an original estimate of pounds 136m. The committee call on the NHS to seek compensation for some of the cost.

The hospital was sanctioned when Kenneth Clarke was Secretary of State for Health. North West Thames Regional Health Authority planned the hospital to replace five others, and said it could be financed by the sale of land. But Sir John found that only about half of the cost could be financed by land sales. He said the region had received pounds 47m for the sale of one hospital and the current estimated value of the residual sites to be sold was pounds 96m.

The latest overall estimated cost, including associated schemes and decanting costs, was approaching pounds 240m. 'In order to contain expenditure, the region have been obliged to defer over 2,300 other capital schemes and reduce a wide range of maintenance budgets,' Sir John said.

Under the Tomlinson reorganisation of London health services, ministers were faced with the prospect of having to go ahead with the opening of the new hospital - one of the biggest in the history of the NHS - when other hospitals were being closed.

James Thompson, clinical director at St Mark's Hospital in City Road, central London, said yesterday that St Mark's would not be closing but would be retaining its separate identity when it moved Northwick Park under the Tomlinson changes.