Meriden MP Caroline Spelman is demanding answers after plans for a new urgent care centre at Solihull Hospital have been delayed for a third time.
The Solihull News can also reveal that the new health facility – designed to replace the walk-in centre, accident and emergency and the acute medical unit – does not look set to be built in the A&E department as originally intended.
Dr Patrick Brooke, chief officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the body pioneering the new urgent care project, has made assurances this week that the new urgent care centre will still be sited within Solihull Hospital’s building.
But Ms Spelman has blamed the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT), which runs Solihull Hospital, for the delays.
“For a long time, the Heart of England Trust refused to make a commitment to the urgent care centre,” the MP said.
“While we have their commitment now, in my view the Trust has interfered and caused these delays.”
The urgent care centre was originally hoped to be completed by spring this year but delays pushed the project back to autumn 2015. The date was then delayed further, to April next year.
But this date looks set to change again.
Minutes of a Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Board report from January this year stated that HEFT bosses had objected to an urgent care centre being sited within Solihull Hospital’s building and instead preferred the option of a standalone building in the hospital’s car park.
CCG bosses have admitted this week that their initial timeline for the project was ‘over-ambitious’ and that the new urgent care facility will not fit in the accident and emergency department.
“There were some initial problems with HEFT but we are now in a much better position,” Dr Brooke said. “We are now all working well together to design a model which will suit everyone.
“There are some structural and operational problems, which we perhaps had not realised, with siting the urgent care centre within the accident and emergency department.
“But we want to stress that the plans are still to site the centre within the Solihull Hospital building. We are still aiming for this ‘one front door’ approach.”
Matthew Cooke, deputy medical director strategy and transformation, at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, said: “HEFT and Solihull CCG are working closely together and are committed to providing an urgent care centre on the Solihull Hospital site.
“The centre needs to be in the best location for patients, large enough for future expansion, and link effectively with other services.
“The initial plans did not achieve this so have now been changed. This caused a delay which the Trust apologises for; our priority has always been to achieve the best possible service for patients.
“HEFT has confirmed their intent to develop the urgent care centre in an existing ward area at Solihull Hospital. This location allows easy external access for the public; this is also the option that will enable building work to proceed more quickly.”