Health bosses have finally approved the £7.1m financial paperwork to ensure the upgrade to St Luke’s Hospital will go ahead.
The board of NHS Property Services announced last Thursday that it had approved the business case for new hospital buildings at St Luke’s, in Leicester Road.
It brings a long chapter of broken promises, frequent delays, failed financial bids and the scrapping of a PFI deal which date back some 25 years to a conclusion.
Health chiefs said the project represents “one of the largest single investments in health care facilities in Leicestershire in recent times” and will provide first class, modern health care facilities.
Martin Royal, regional director for NHS Property Services, said: “This is fantastic news for Harborough people.
“They’ve been waiting a long time to know what will happen to local health services and this is a major step forward.
“The purpose-built hospital will provide the best health facilities available.”
St Luke’s provides services such as stroke rehab, palliative care and endoscopy.
Services such as minor injuries, radiography, ultrasound, and outpatient facilities for rehabilitation, speech and language will be available at the revamped St Luke’s.
It will also include a new urgent care centre, a new GP practice and space for mental health services.
District councillor Phil Knowles, who has campaigned for the new hospital for the last 25 years, said: “The people of Harborough have waited so long for this new community hospital facility.
“They have backed the campaign every step of the way and now finally it seems they will have the facility which is richly deserved and much anticipated.”
Harborough Council welcomed the news.
Leader Blake Pain said: “It is a positive step forward and I hope it goes some way to allaying concerns about health provision in light of proposed new housing to the north-west of Harborough.
“We’re all aware of the history regarding a new hospital for the town, and it’s imperative this project is delivered by NHS Property Services, as promised, for the benefit of local residents.”
As reported in last week’s Mail, building work is due to start in late-spring of this year with a target date of April/May 2016 for the end of construction. There will then be up to eight weeks for fitting out the hospital.
Health chiefs say the hospital should then be ready to open its doors to the public in June or July 2016.
Birmingham-based developers Morgan Sindall have won the contract to carry out the building work.
NHS Property Services said services offered at the town’s Cottage Hospital in Coventry Road will transfer to St Luke’s “meaning comprehensive care on one site”.
It does call into question how much longer the Cottage Hospital will be needed.
Health chiefs have been reluctant to give a timescale of when or if the Cottage Hospital will be “deemed surplus”.
However, they are already talking about putting a condition of sale on the site that would ensure any new owner would be responsible for protecting its war memorial portico.
Karen English, the interim managing director for the East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for commissioning health services in Harborough, replied to a Mail question over the Cottage Hospital.
She said: “The Cottage Hospital is not on the market and will remain in use until at least 2016.
“It will not be sold until it has been deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ and this will not happen until the new hospital is up and running.”