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[18 NOV 98] HEALTH NEWS
New Coventry Hospital - The Debate

The chief players in the Coventry hospital debate gave their views after the release of a joint statement. We bring you the highlights.

Chris Howgrave-Graham (Chief Executive Coventry Health Authority):

"We will be going out to consult on the basis of the Walsgrave option. As you know we have looked hard at the Coventry and Warwickshire option over the last three months. There are some difficulties which we have not been able to overcome and those could extend the time scale of the development by up to a year and that’s the main reason we need to go with the Walsgrave option.

"However we will be doing more work to see whether the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital can be made to be workable, but at this stage we felt we had to give an honest assessment of where things stand.

"The other thing I would like to say is that it is clear everyone has a total commitment to getting a new hospital for Coventry.

"This is what we think is the practical way forward. The Health Authority has not changed its view of what it would like to see. If it could be done, we would like to see a hospital in the city centre but we are realistic about what can be achieved which is why we are going out for the Walsgrave option.

"Anybody who wants to meet us can let us know we are working through the most sensible way of how we talk to people through the consultation period. Given the strength of feeling, just saying come along to an open meeting might mean a lot of people wouldn’t get into any room.

"We will look at all suggestions people have about the best way to carry out the consultation. We are open to talk to anybody. We haven’t yet got all of that clearly fixed.

"The role of the Health Authority is to listen to what people have to say. Part of our reason for pushing the Coventry and Warwickshire option over recent months was because we knew what people think."

Councillor John Fletcher (Leader of Coventry City Council):

"I think we accept what the consultation will be. Our preferred option has always been the city centre site, that is still our view and I am content that during the time that the consultation is being done there will be further work done on the Coventry and Warwickshire site and that will include an assessment of things like the economic regeneration and environmental benefits of both sites.

"I don’t see the Coventry and Warwicks option as dead yet, but clearly at this stage the Walsgrave site is more developed, it is more certain and I can understand why the Health Authority wants to go out on that basis.

"I think our role in consultation is to represent and to facilitate. If there are ways in which we can facilitate the widest possible discussion and consultation then I am sure we will want to do that."

David Loughton (Chief Executive of Walsgrave Hospitals Trust):

"Some will say I got my way but I don’t think that at all. We have seriously looked at all the issues and while my name gets mentioned, we as a trust have spent 425,000 on a professional team to advise us. If we ignore that advice it is a waste of public money.

"We are firmly of the opinion, and the professional team is firmly of the opinion, that we will not overcome some of the very significant issues on the Coventry and Warwickshire site. That is regrettable for the people of Coventry.

"There are wider issues because this is a regional hospital we are talking about. The Warwickshire Health Authority’s opinion has to be taken into account. If Coventry was ever to lose its status as a regional hospital and it could do that because there are areas of Warwickshire that could go elsewhere, that would have a significant impact.

"As far as the consultation is concerned I think we have to be straight with people and tell them what the real options are. The real option is do you want a new hospital in Coventry or not. It is as simple as that.

"There are other schemes around the country. The government have got 10 on their table at the moment and some are more advanced than we are. We are a second phase scheme and we are likely to lose out completely. It is Walsgrave or nothing."

Bob Ainsworth (Coventry MP):

"Yes I am pleased at long last we have a decision and I congratulate the Health Authority on having taken one.

"It hasn’t been three months these schemes have been evaluated, as has been said, we had a public meeting at the turn of the year and we have been working on these sites and have had the chance to prove them feasible for 11 months. We are a long way behind.

"If the City Council wish to continue to evaluate the Coventry and Warwickshire site then they are perfectly free to do that and if they feel that is their obligation then they should do that. But I hope they will evaluate it on a fair and equitable basis and that they will look at the regeneration and environmental advantages of Walsgrave as I see them as being considerable.

"Hospitals are first of all for the patients and a new hospital on the Walsgrave site can provide an environment that is peaceful and restful and suitable for patients.

"As I read it we are consulting the people of Coventry on the basis of the Walsgrave option. I say that because people could get quite offended if they feel later on that they have been in some way deceived.

"We are a long, long way behind where we ought to be and we are in danger of losing this project. The people of Coventry would never forgive any of us if we jeopardise this project."

 Dave Nellist (City Councillor):

"The battle lines are now clear. Six years ago our campaign started to stop the demolition of Cov and Warwick Hospital and its clear we that is what we are back on track having to do.

"If consultation means anything it means giving them a choice. To say it’s Walsgrave or nothing is blackmail and I don’t think the people of Coventry will take kindly to that."

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CWN / Health / 18 Nov 98 / New Coventry Hospital - The Debate

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