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The £219m promise for St Helier Hospital…

The £219m promise for St Helier Hospital...

It was an intriguing exchange in the House of Commons when George Osborne filled in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Question Time and Tom Brake asked him about funding for much-needed upgrades to St Helier Hospital.

Here is the exchange from Hansard:

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): The Chancellor will be aware that under the coalition, £219 million was allocated to rebuilding St Helier hospital. Will he restate the commitment to that funding so that we can save St Helier?
Mr Osborne: We did commit to that hospital project, and provided that it continues to represent value for money, which I am pretty clear that it does, we will go on providing that support. What we have done is to commit to the Simon Stevens plan for the national health service—an additional £8 billion of NHS spending —which is something we can only do if we have our public finances in better order and we are growing our economy, which is precisely what we are doing.
In response to George Osborne's rather mealy-mouthed answer, Tom Brake put out the following press release:
Chancellor George Osborne promised that the new government would allocate £219 million to save St. Helier Hospital. He was challenged directly by Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Mr. Osborne pledged to provide funding for St. Helier as long as the hospital “continues to represent value for money.” He said he thinks the hospital is performing well now.
Tom has led a campaign to save St. Helier hospital from harmful budget cuts for years. More than 21,000 local residents have signed his online petition to save the hospital, which can be found at http://www.saveoursthelier.co.uk/save_our_st_helier_petition.
Tom commented,
“I am pleased that Mr. Osborne has promised to stick with the coalition government’s plan to allocate £219 million to St. Helier Hospital. I intend to hold him to his promise. Our community deserves convenient access to essential healthcare services from a quality hospital like St. Helier. Osborne and the Conservative government must now deliver it.”
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): The Chancellor will be aware that under the coalition, £219 million was allocated to rebuilding St Helier hospital. Will he restate the commitment to that funding so that we can save St Helier?
Mr Osborne: We did commit to that hospital project, and provided that it continues to represent value for money, which I am pretty clear that it does, we will go on providing that support. What we have done is to commit to the Simon Stevens plan for the national health service—an additional £8 billion of NHS spending —which is something we can only do if we have our public finances in better order and we are growing our economy, which is precisely what we are doing.
Hang on a moment, Tom. Where exactly in George Osborne's response does he actually say the £219m is back on the table? He doesn't. He gives a slippery politician's answer.
Tom, a few things...
1. The £219m was taken off the table in February 2014, as we are sure you are aware.
2. How does this claim that the £219m is promised for St Helier Hospital square up with the £360m in "efficiency savings" that the CCGs are making? The numbers simply do not add up.
3. The CCGs hold the pursestrings here and both you and Mr Osborne voted for the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the very act that created the CCGs. So why are neither of you mentioning the CCGs?
4. Are you putting pressure on the CCGs to rethink the need for the £360m in "efficiency savings"?
5. Given that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 takes responsibility for the NHS away from the Secretary of State for Health and places it in the hands of the CCGs, does George Osborne or Jeremy Hunt have the authority to make promises about funding for individual hospitals?
6. Why are you still linking to your e-petition about St Helier Hospital when it is still addressed to the wrong body, pre-dates the election and nobody seems to know when it will be handed in?
We eagerly await your response, Mr Brake.
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Updated: 04/11/2015 — 22:58

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