MP blames red tape as extension of hospital continues to ‘stand empty’

�The delay to opening a much-needed hospital extension – which is costing the NHS �1million a year – has been blamed on poor timing and bureaucracy.

Barking MP Margaret Hodge has written to the head of London’s Strategic Health Authority Ruth Carnell to complain about the lack of progress to Barking Hospital, but the NHS body responsible has denied her claims that the building had been “standing empty”.

The hospital in Upney Lane was extended to accommodate maternity services, a polyclinic, a pharmacy, ophthalmology, mental and sexual health services.

Work began in 2009 with plans to reopen in spring 2010 but half of the building – including the maternity department – has not yet been opened.

Mrs Hodge said: “It’s an outrage that the buildings were handed over to the health authorities in March and are standing empty today.

“We desperately need the maternity services now and bureaucracy shouldn’t come before patients.

“And worst of all, we’re all paying �1million a year to keep the empty buildings safe and secure. That’s a terrible waste of money.”

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But a spokesman for NHS ONEL said: “Barking Community Hospital isn’t standing empty.

“The sexual health centre opened to patients in May 2010 and mental health services opened to clients in February of this year. This represents 50 per cent of the building.

“NHS Barking and Dagenham remains committed to fully opening the new Barking Community Hospital by autumn 2011.”

In her letter to the SHA, Mrs Hodge wrote: “You and your new team should have timed your procurements so that services could have started when the building works had been completed. You didn’t and we’re now going to lose months procuring services.”

She added that delays were being caused because the SHA was creating “bureaucratic hurdles which are preventing leases being signed off”.

The PCT – NHS Barking and Dagenham – has joined the cluster management team with Redbridge, Havering and Waltham Forest trusts on April 1, forming the Outer North East London (ONEL) trusts.

ONEL make budget decisions on behalf of all four boroughs, while the SHA London manages PCTs locally and is the local link to the Department of Health.