Fresh hopes have stirred for a dramatic £56m redevelopment of Halton General Hospital after a minister agreed to meet east Runcorn MP Mike Amesbury to discuss the matter.
Halton health chiefs have been snubbed twice in recent years over their bids for £40m of NHS improvement cash, which was to be topped up by Halton Borough Council and other agencies to form a total proposal worth £56m.
Edward Argar, health minister, told Mr Amesbury he was committed to meeting him to discuss the matter, but had been unable to yet because of the coronavirus.
Mr Argar said the nation’s "new hospitals" will be integrated with other services and capital spending will be announced later in the year, giving the biggest hint yet that the Government might finally back the scheme.
Under the proposals, the existing hospital building, in Runcorn, would be demolished and the services moved to an extension added to the Cheshire and Merseyside Treatment Centre.
The rest of the site would be redeveloped as a "hospital and wellbeing campus" featuring a nursing home, nursery, rehabilitation centre, community centre, wellness centre, and multi-generational housing, all interspersed with communal areas such as pet parks, gardens, woodland walks and cycle paths.
Speaking during an income tax debate in March, Labour MP Mr Amesbury said: “Halton General Hospital campus – which, as the minister knows, is part of Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – has been turned down twice for capital funding for much needed refurbishment work.
“I plead once again for the minister to ensure that it is prioritised; I am still waiting for a meeting with him.”
Mr Argar replied: “I hear what the Hon Gentleman says.
“As ever, he is a vocal champion for his constituents and his hospital. I say very gently that recent events have slightly impacted on my ability to schedule as many meetings as I might wish, but I remain committed to meeting him and talking to him about that particular project.
“We want the new hospitals to be fully equipped with the very best modern technology, with touch screens, not clipboards, and systems that talk to each other.
“We also want them to be fully integrated with other local NHS organisations.
“But this is just the start, and we will follow this work up with multi-year capital funding through the spending review to be announced later this year.”