Today Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that a new health centre in Hornchurch will be one of twenty hospital projects to benefit from an extra £1.8 billion capital fund for the NHS. The news follows my sustained, months-long campaign in parliament to get the health centre project over the line after it failed to secure funding at the last capital bidding round earlier this year. £17 million will now be set aside for a St George’s Health and Wellbeing Centre on Suttons Lane, Hornchurch, ensuring that critical NHS services return once again to the site of the former St George’s Hospital.
Speaking on the steps of Downing Street in July, the Prime Minister pledged to improve access to GP services, get to grips with social care and immediately begin work on twenty hospital upgrades. Today’s announcement confirms the critical role government sees the St George’s site playing in a new model of integrated health and social care in Eastern London.
I’m absolutely thrilled that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have listened to the case I have been making to them about the importance of St George’s. This is a major breakthrough for our local health and social care system as it will reduce pressure on Queen’s Hospital, provide more services in the community and improve residents’ access to GPs and mental health care. It also reassures residents that growing populations will be catered to by new services rather than just placing pressure on existing ones.
The St George’s Hospital site on Suttons Lane had stood empty since 2012 and was sold by the NHS to developer, Bellway, in March 2018. While new homes are already being built there, the health centre pledged for the site became mired in funding and planning difficulties in spite of consensus among local councillors, campaigners and health commissioners that a new facility was sorely needed. NHS Property realised £43 million when it sold St George’s, and I had asked the Health Secretary a series of questions in parliament earlier this year about the sale, suggesting that local communities should benefit when local NHS assets are sold. In response to my request to fast track the St George’s funding bid, Mr Hancock agreed in March to look at the case again, saying ‘There is no better advocate for Hornchurch in the Chamber than my hon. Friend. She made her case with passion and commitment and I was very impressed by it.’
This project had been stalled by a bureaucratic logjam for far too long, and in the absence of capital funding I had been trying to bring different parts of the NHS together, along with the council, to see if we could find another way to make the project happen. I am glad in the end the Health Secretary listened to my argument that St George’s will ultimately save the NHS cash by keeping people out of hospital and improving how the NHS and council work together on social care. It is already proving useful to have in the Prime Minister a fellow London MP who understands the pressures on outer boroughs.
I will always push for the resource that constituents deserve, and I am just so glad that my team and I have managed to make progress in one of the big areas of concern to those who get in touch with us. There is nothing more important than our health and that of our loved ones, and I hope that once it is delivered, the new St George’s health centre will give us a strong foundation upon which to build excellent, sustainable health and social care services long into the future.