Unite has called on the NHS Trust responsible for building the new Midland Metropolitan hospital, to come clean with patients and staff over further delays to the vitally needed hospital.
Paperwork for the board meeting of the Sandwell and Birmingham NHS Trust held yesterday (February 7) revealed that the appointment of a contractor to restart work at the hospital will not occur until this summer.
No substantial work has taken place on the project since the original contractor Carillion collapsed in January 2018. At the time of Carillion’s collapse the hospital was half built but since then the unfinished building has deteriorated.
The hospital is already three years late. The latest revelations are set to further delay the date the hospital becomes operational. Staff report that they have been left to provide care in crumbling buildings and that wards earmarked for demolition have had to be returned to service.
Staff have also described how the failing infrastructure is making it increasingly difficult to provide first class care to patients.
It is estimated that it will cost between £267m and £320m to complete the hospital. The companies that are thought to be in the running to be awarded the contract include Balfour Beatty, Kier, Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O’Rourke.
“The trust needs to be open with staff and patients; they deserve an honest answer about when this new vitally needed hospital is realistically going to be operational,” said Unite regional officer Su Lowe.
“Staff are being asked to provide first class care in crumbling buildings which have been earmarked for demolition or are simply no longer fit for purpose.
“In the meantime, the trust needs to explain what it’s going to do to reduce the grinding misery of patients being cared for in structures which are no longer able to meet their needs,” she added.
“There also needs to be assurances that the increased costs of the project will not result in cuts to staffing to make ends meet and that the government is committed to fully funding all aspects of the project.”
Unite has also written to Toby Lewis the chief executive of the trust about its concerns that when work does restart unions are provided with proper access to the workforce and exploitative practices such as umbrella companies and bogus self-employment are outlawed.
Su Lowe noted, “As well as consideration to the existing staff and patients, the NHS trust has a moral duty to ensure that the workers, who will be eventually employed to complete the hospital, are treated fairly without exploitation.
“It would be simply immoral to allow exploitative practices to flourish on this massive public sector project.
“If the workforce is not properly treated productivity will be reduced, safety will be compromised and further delays would be highly likely to occur.”