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New Harlow hospital faces two-year delay


The Princess Alexandra Hospital is set to be replaced. Credit: NHS

A second hospital in the government’s expansion programme faces a likely delay, it has emerged.

The expected completion date for the new Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essexmay be delayed until 2032, the local council was told last week.

The news follows the announcement on 1 May that construction of the new Whipps Cross Hospital in north-east London – another facility earmarked in the NHP – is unlikely to make the 2030 delivery deadline.

Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust’s (PAHT) director of strategy and estates, Michael Meredith, said: “PAHT is continuing to work in line with the government’s commitment to have all current New Hospital Programme (NHP) schemes operational by 2030. However, realistically we believe that 2032 is more achievable.”

He added: “We are expecting to put our planning in by about 2025. That will give us a build date [of] around 2030 that’s our target date. However, we’re being clear that, given the uncertainty at the moment, there’s potential that [the date] might slip to 2032.”

Meredith was speaking last week to Essex County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee in Chelmsford.

The location of the new Harlow hospital is earmarked for junction 7A of the M11. Meredith told the committee “we continue to negotiate the land [there]” and “we think we’ve got a route to purchase that site”.

He added that “there aren’t any other available sites”.

Meredith said that, “At present, it is not possible to give a firmer indication of the timeline for the opening of the new hospital,” adding that the PAHT is waiting to hear about a new “slot” in late May for “final development” within the NHP.

Last July, the National Audit Office estimated that the Harlow hospital would cost between £501m and £1bn.

Meredith indicated that the hospital may be a high priority but, referring to the need to remediate unstable reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in the UK’s hospitals estate, he also pointed out that “RAAC [affected] hospitals will have to be designed and developed”, which could push the Harlow work down the queue.

The existing hospital has been reviewed three times and “we don’t have any RAAC”, he told the committee.

Meredith said the existing Princess Alexandra Hospital is at the end of its working life and needs complete replacement.

On 14 March, the ceiling of an intensive care unit in the hospital partially collapsed. No one was hurt but the trust called out the fire service and declared a “major incident”, according to local news service, Your Harlow.

He added that the expected two-year delay to the new hospital means the PAHT has to invest £9m to £10m in maintaining the existing facility.

The NHP was set up in 2020 to fulfil the Conservative government’s manifesto pledge to build 40 “new” hospitals.

However, according to Construction News’ sister publication Nursing Times, it was later confirmed that, initially, funding was only available for six hospitals including improvements to existing buildings.

In March 2023, the government stated that the maximum capital funding available for the delivery of 32 new hospitals and eight existing hospital schemes by 2030-31 would be £22.2bn.

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