PLEA FOR FUNDING: New North Tees hospital bid backed by both Stockton MPs
North Tees Hospital, in Stockton, Image: Ian Cooper/Teesside Live
A PLEA for funding to replace a crumbling Teesside hospital has been officially sent off – with an estimated price tag of £380m.
Freezing pipes, broken ceiling panels, and leaking roofs are all dogging efforts to keep the University Hospital of North Tees fit for purpose.
Trust chiefs have now lodged a nine-figure request for a new hospital through the Government’s Health Infrastructure Fund.
And both of Stockton’s MPs have called on Whitehall to back the bid.
What is it?
North Tees didn’t make an initial list of 32 new hospital sites unveiled in late 2020.
This latest round of bids is designed to select another eight sites to have new hospitals by 2030.
Applications opened in the summer and the deadline closed last month.
North Tees will be included in a “two stage selection process” followed by a more in-depth exercise to whittle the list down further later this year.
The trust will find out whether North Tees has made the cut in the spring.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust has also thrown its hat in the ring with a £350m request to bring two new regional centres to James Cook University Hospital.
Why is it needed?
A staggering £288m repair backlog is facing the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust – with the Hardwick site making up the biggest chunk of the costs.
It is costing £8m a year just to keep North Tees in its current tired condition – and trust leaders have warned the site only has 10 years left before it needs replacing entirely,
Figures also show the wider hospital is costing more and more each year to maintain – with annual estate management costs at the 1960s site rising more than 40% in the past five years.
North Tees was a modern, cutting edge site when it opened in 1968.
But its layout is not suited to 21st century care.
It gets too hot in summer, too cold in winter, and ward bosses can’t see around corners and pillars to care for patients on many wards.
Board meetings have heard how critical care facilities are “not fit for purpose”.
Its flat roofs are also susceptible to leaks – and running repair costs means money is being channelled away from improving services.
The trust also faces the joint task of dealing with Teesside and Stockton’s stark health inequalities – where healthy life expectancies can drop by 20 years in the space of just a few miles.
Shelved past efforts
Masterplans to bring a new hospital north of the Tees have come and gone for almost two decades.
A vision for a £460m “super hospital” at Wynyard Park fell by the wayside in 2010 after it was axed by the coalition government.
Doubts over funding a less costly scheme saw the entire project shelved in 2014.
Parts of the North Tees have received funding in a bid to keep pace with demand.
A £3m covid package offered a boost for accident and emergency at the start of this year.
But wholesale changes are sought by trust chiefs.
Talks have taken place over the trust creating a secondary facility as part of Stockton’s High Street revamp once the Castlegate shopping centre is razed.
Meanwhile, a refurbishment of the existing hospital site is the “least preferred option” among health leaders due to the disruption it could bring.
What the boss says
Trust chief executive Julie Gillon said they had a duty to continue to fund urgent repairs at the site – but ambitions were focussed on getting the money to improve frontline care.
“We must invest in the future of health and care in the Tees Valley,” she added.
“Our region is home to some of the UK’s most deprived communities – our challenge is to ensure that any health inequalities that exist are challenged and tackled.”
Ms Gillon said this would only be achieved by working together with partners.
“We have every confidence that the government understands the urgent need we have for a new hospital site,” she added.
What MPs said
Stockton South MP Matt Vickers said North Tees occupied a special place in his heart – adding that making sure it was fit for purpose, and fit for the future, was one of his top priorities.
The Conservative added: “Like so many, I was born there and it has been my local hospital throughout my life.
“I have even undertaken shadow shifts with its amazing doctors and nurses, volunteered on the wards during the pandemic and even did a stint of DJ’ing on the hospital radio.
“I am therefore delighted that North Tees has submitted a bid to benefit from the record funding this government has ploughed into the NHS – a bid that has my full support.
“I have and will continue to lobby ministers to give our hospital the best chance possible to be successful in this bid to create a truly modern hospital.”
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has long called for a new hospital north of the river.
The Labour member said Stockton deserved a new hospital to help face down the “huge inequalities” in the borough.
He added: “It’s been over a decade since the planned new hospital for Stockton and Hartlepool was cancelled by the then Tory/Lib Dem coalition.
“Since then, we’ve seen report after report about how the North Tees building is no longer fit for purpose and requires a complete overhaul to meet modern day standards.
“We need state of the art services and facilities to tackle these and improve the health of local people.
“I am working with the local health trust to support them in their expression of interest for a new hospital.
“If the Government is truly serious about “levelling up”, they would invest in a new hospital for Stockton and tackle the significant health inequalities people on Teesside face.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV