Opinion: St George's still has a role to play in NHS
PUBLISHED: 08:00 11 August 2019
The former St George's Hospital site of Suttons Lane, Hornchurch, has stood empty since 2012 but was eventually sold to the NHS for development in March 2018.
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Constituents will have noticed new homes already springing up there, but the health centre pledged became mired in funding and planning difficulties despite agreement that a new facility was needed. Which part of the public sector would pay? How big should it be? Could planning consent be secured?
With the local health system under strain, residents were concerned about more homes without the infrastructure in place. Since my election as Hornchurch's MP in 2017, I made it a priority to cut through the bureaucracy and get the health centre delivered as I could see how it could solve many of the issues residents were writing to me about - reducing pressure on Queen's, improving GP access and delivering better social and mental health services.
I thought we were nearly there earlier this year when we just missed out on a capital funding bid. I pledged not to give up. These past months I have been making the case for St George's directly to the health secretary and later, Boris Johnson during his leadership campaign. When Boris became prime minister, he announced that improving health care would be a personal mission, pledging 20 hospital upgrades. With my team and I having already put in the background work, St George's was ready to go and as a fellow outer London MP, the PM understood all the problems this integrated health centre could resolve. I was told last week that we would be getting the green light! We are absolutely thrilled, and hope St George's not just tackles existing challenges but delivers excellent services to residents into the future.