The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt visited the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton this afternoon (Thursday 26 February) to announce an extra £60 million towards an eight-year modernisation project.
He accepted that inflation in construction costs meant that the bill had gone up from £420 million to £486 million.
There were concerns about the eight-year project because the headline cost is now £66 million higher than the £420 million figure agreed by the Chancellor George Osborne just under a year ago.
Mr Hunt toured the Royal Sussex with his fellow Conservative MP Simon Kirby, who represents Brighton Kemptown, and hospital trust chief executive Matthew Kershaw.
During his tour he met, among others, the senior consultant from the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department Paul Wallman.
Announcing the extra money, Mr Hunt said that the government was a huge supporter of the hospital and recognised that it had needed modernising for years.
He said that Labour had not allocated funding for the project while it was in office and praised Simon Kirby for persistently making the case for it.
Mr Hunt said: “We will be putting aside an extra £60 million so that the project can go ahead.”
Even in these very tough times, he said, the hospital had done very well, with
more midwives, doctors and nurses being recruited.
He added: “If we hadn’t been very careful with the country’s finances over the past four years, this hospital wouldn’t be able to go ahead.”
The final business case still awaits sign-off from the Treasury.
Mr Hunt said that he hoped that this would happen before the election.
Mr Kirby said: “Last year I successfully campaigned for £420 million for the redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
“I have subsequently been lobbying both the Chancellor and the Health Secretary for an additional £60 million for the redevelopment.
“I was therefore delighted that this afternoon the Health Secretary announced that, following these efforts, the government has pledged that an additional £60 million has been set aside for the hospital redevelopment, taking the total to around £480 million.
“This is a very positive step forward. The trust will now be able to conclude design work and finalise the costs safe in the knowledge that the funding is secure, subject to the usual final negotiations.
“This redevelopment will enable the hospital to provide the very best facilities that the patients and staff deserve. This is great news for our city and the wider area.
“I would again like to pay tribute to the hard working staff at the hospital for putting together such a strong case.”
Nancy Platts, the Labour parliamentary candidate in Brighton Kemptown, said: “Additional investment in the redevelopment of the Royal Sussex is very welcome and it is a victory for the local community who have campaigned so hard and for so long to get a new hospital.
“However, we are facing a crisis in our A&E and with nearby GPs retiring there is a high risk that even more people will be heading in the direction of our local hospital.
“It is nearly a year since the last announcement about funding, yet we are still waiting to hear when the money will get final government approval so that work can actually get started and local people can get the healthcare they deserve.”