Call For Brown To Fund Children’s Hospital

A multimillionaire supporter of the Children’s Hospital for Wales has called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to fund the second phase of development.

Sir Stanley Thomas, chairman of the Noah’s Ark Appeal, said that if the Welsh Assembly Government would not cover the disputed £3m annual running costs of the hospital, Westminster should.

In a letter to the Western Mail, Sir Stanley said the time for discussions about funding for the Children’s Hospital for Wales was over.

His comments come after Cardiff Local Health Board withdrew its support for the second phase of the project, throwing the completion of Wales’ first dedicated children’s hospital in doubt.

Health Minister Edwina Hart has called for a detailed analysis of the current services provided by the Children’s Hospital for Wales, and the proposals for phase two.

She has said she will meet all the local health boards involved with the children’s hospital next month.

Welsh Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Jenny Randerson has also asked for a meeting with Ms Hart to discuss the funding for the hospital.

But Sir Stanley, a former owner with brother Peter of Peter’s Pies, said Mrs Randerson is likely to receive the same response as he has had – “promises, promises, promises”.

He said, “The time for further discussions is over.

“The truth is the Welsh Assembly Government holds the purse strings for all health trusts and local health boards in Wales.

“The First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, has the power to pass additional funding requirements for these bodies.

“If Mr Morgan, the Labour leader, does not have sufficient funds then he should go to his own Labour Government in London and request additional funding for this essential project.

“I am sure that he has sufficient political gravitas to successfully obtain these funds and ensure that at last we have a fully-completed Children’s Hospital for Wales.

“The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has already stated that one of his main priorities is the health of the nation – here is an opportunity to show the people of Wales that he means what he says.”

The first patients were admitted to the children’s hospital two-and-a-half years ago. It was initially hoped that construction work on the second phase, which includes operating theatres, outpatient clinics and intensive care, would be started soon afterwards.

But the project has ground to a halt as an argument goes in the NHS about who will foot the £3m bill for the annual running costs.

Cardiff LHB, which has to make savings of £4m this year, last week withdrew support for the project amid concerns about its £1m contribution towards the costs.

It also raised doubts about the clinical benefits the hospital will provide to children, and questioned whether the second-phase plans were in line with current guidance about how sick children should be treated.

Work on the second phase of the hospital cannot start until the issues about running costs have been resolved.

Sir Stanley said, “Scotland has four children’s hospitals, Northern Ireland, one; England more than a dozen – Wales is still without a completed children’s hospital.

“The generosity of the people of Wales raised more than £10m to build phase one and they will not accept a down-graded phase two in order to save money. Our children are worth more.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government said work on the analysis of the services provided by the children’s hospital and the second phase proposals is ongoing.