A Labour government would use public funds to finish building a Liverpool hospital left in limbo by the collapse of construction giant Carillion, Jonathan Ashworth has pledged.
The new £335m Royal Liverpool Hospital – which had originally been due to open its doors to patients in March 2017 – has stood empty since the firm filed for liquidation in January, with NHS bosses admitting that construction will not be finished until at least 2020.
But following a demonstration outside the partly-constructed 646-bed hospital on Monday, shadow health secretary Ashworth vowed that the Labour Party would complete the building project if it was voted into power.
“If there is a Labour government in the coming weeks and months, we would get a grip of this situation – we would step in as a government and put the public funding in to get this hospital rebuilt,” he told Liverpool’s Radio City Talk.
Calling the current situation an “absolute shambles”, he added: “I’m flabbergasted that this has been allowed to happen and the government has not intervened and got a grip of the situation.
“We cannot have a hospital left sort of 80-90% completed and then just sort of stalled and mothballed.
“Ministers have got a responsibility to step in here, get a grip of this and get this hospital rebuilt for the people of Liverpool.”
The vow by the Leicester South MP comes a day before delegates at the Labour Party conference are due to vote on an emergency motion calling on the government to take “direct control” of the construction project to ensure it is finished “as swiftly as possible”.
Responding to the news, Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said the people of Liverpool had been the “unwitting victims of Carillion’s collapse”.
“The fact that the promised new Royal Liverpool Hospital is now 18 months late, and work has not even restarted on the project is creating a terrible strain on the staff at the existing hospital, who are left to try to provide first-class care in a leaking building which is no longer capable of meeting modern medical demands,” he said.
“The Royal Liverpool fiasco has exposed why we need to do away with PFI, as the arguments around who is funding the hospital are distracting from the desperate need for the hospital to be built,” McCluskey added.
“The government must demonstrate that it has not abandoned the people of Liverpool by pledging immediately to directly fund the completion of the hospital and ensuring that this massively delayed project is finished and operational as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the government is committed to getting the Royal Liverpool Hospital built “as quickly as possible for the benefit of patients in Merseyside”.
“We have been working closely with all parties involved to find a solution which minimises further delays and ensures value for money,” they said, adding that the Trust’s board is due to meet on Tuesday to review the situation.