Cautious welcome for a publicly funded Midland Met Hospital in Smethwick/West B’ham (no PFI!)

Keep Our NHS Public Birmingham says, “It looks like we’ve won our campaign for a publicly-funded (non-PFI) Midland Met Hospital in Smethwick/West Birmingham!” 

The construction of the Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick collapsed after the construction firm Carillion crashed spectacularly in Jan 2018 leaving the hospital half built. Then, in June, the bankers behind the ‘private finance initiative’ pulled the plug on the deal, so KONP Birmingham immediately organised a protest outside the hospital site demanding that the Treasury, health ministers and the Government should FULLY FUND THE MIDLAND MET HOSPITAL AND RUN IT PROPERLY UNDER GOVERNMENT AND NHS CONTROL!

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The protest, held on the NHS’s 70th Birthday on the 5th July, was a major success with 100-120 people from diverse communities, when we’d had only expected 30-40 in attendance. We had fantastic support from organisations such as Birmingham TUC (BTUC), Unite the Union West Midlands, Unite the Community Birmingham, West Midlands Pensioners Convention and Birmingham Against the Cuts.

A month later, the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust Board voted to tell the Government that the only viable option for the completion was direct government funding, a full vindication of the KONP Birmingham campaign argument. 2 weeks later, the Government and Hospital Trust reached an agreement to finish construction work with the Government providing funding for the remainder of the building work at Midland Metropolitan Hospital – which will see the new hospital built by 2022.

It’s a very cautious welcome to the news. Firstly, there is a delay in starting completion until early summer 2019, partly because the half built hospital was rotting away without any protection for 6 months and an additional £20m worth of work will have to be done from this September. Additionally, the Hospital’s Trust Board Chief Executive has been dropping in phrases to his announcements such as “making cost improvement programmes above national norms”, “limited reconfigurations”, etc, which reflect the concern in Dr John Lister’s 2016 review of the privately financed hospital published by KONPB and BTUC when the Midland Met was first mooted.

Notwithstanding our continuing concerns, we believe that the Midland Met fiasco is a final nail in the coffin of successive governments’ love affair with PFI /2 (you’ll note that a number of “the great and the good” pictured in local press articles celebrating the decision were originally opposed to our position on a publicly funded solution to the construction of the new hospital!).

However, it’s a long time till 2022, so we will keep you updated and we’ll keep campaigning where necessary. In the meantime, we would like to thank you those of you who came to the July protest and to those of you who signed petitions on street stalls, online, and all of you who’ve supported us in whatever way possible. By the way, please keep in touch with Keep Our NHS Public Birmingham for further campaigns to defend our NHS. For information, our next meeting (and AGM) will be on Wednesday 5th September at the Wellington (Upper/Middle Floor meeting room) 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5SN

In Solidarity, the Keep Our NHS Public Birmingham Secretariat

This article is dedicated to the late, great & fantastic Jolyon Jones who started this campaign in 2015.

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