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What about us? Boris gives Havering £17m health hub, despite Redbridge having one of worst GP ratios

PUBLISHED: 12:15 05 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:31 05 August 2019

Prime minister Boris Johnson(pictured with MP Julia Lopez) has today announced £17million for the new health centre at the former St George's Hospital site development in Hornchurch. Pictures: Julia Lopez/Bellway

Prime minister Boris Johnson(pictured with MP Julia Lopez) has today announced £17million for the new health centre at the former St George's Hospital site development in Hornchurch. Pictures: Julia Lopez/Bellway

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MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting, has questioned why prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a new health centre in Havering, when Redbridge has one of the worst GP to patient ratios in England.

The new development, announced on Monday, August 5, will be built in Suttons Lane, Hornchurch and is one for 20 healthcare projects to benefit from an extra £1.8billion capital fund for the NHS.

Mr Streeting said while the health and wellbeing hub is welcome news for Havering, inhabitants of Redbridge are waiting "far too long" and don't always feel they have had the "attention they need".

"Without serious investment in Redbridge, the prime minister is on course to break one of his first promises - that people wouldn't be waiting weeks to see a GP," he said.

"This is a drop in the ocean compared with the healthcare needs of our local community and the pressures across our local health services in Redbridge."

Labour MP Mr Streeting, who is a member of the House of Commons Treasury Committee, also questioned whether extra money promised for the NHS would really materialise.

"We've had years of empty promises from the Tories on NHS funding," he added.

"The latest announcement of cash for the NHS is based on the economy growing faster than it has done.

"This seems wildly optimistic given the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal. I seriously doubt whether this money will ever materialise."

Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, Julia Lopez, campaigned to get the health centre and wellness hub built in her constituency.

Reacting to the news she said: "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.

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"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 in Suttons Lane had stood empty since 2012 and was sold by the NHS to developer, Bellway, in March 2018 for £43m.

It was the single largest capital receipt for NHS Property at the time.

While 365 new homes are already being built there, the health centre plans were bogged down in funding and planning difficulties.

Speaking on BBC News following the announcement, health secretary Matt Hancock said the economy is growing and the NHS is paid for by "having a strong economy".

"There is a record number of people in work at the moment, that means a record number of people paying income tax, a record low number of people who are claiming unemployment, so that gives you more money," he said.

"We've got the 20 upgrades where the shovels can go in the ground."

However, some healthcare experts say the sum, while desperately needed, is just a fraction of what is required to fix ailing NHS buildings across the country.

Ben Gershlick, from the Health Foundation charity, said that "years of under-investment in the NHS's infrastructure means this extra money risks being little more than a drop in the ocean".

He warned that NHS facilities are "in major disrepair" in England, with a maintenance backlog of more than £6billion, a figure also cited by other experts.

The Royal College of Nursing's chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said the funding would be backed by colleagues "who have to work in cramped and outdated conditions".

"However, after this announcement, nursing staff will look to the prime minister with even greater expectation of addressing the workforce crisis," she added.

Havering CCG has been approached for comment.

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