Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 17:16 UK

Public funds boost for hospital

New Southern General Hospital
An artist's impression of the new Southern General Hospital

The most expensive hospital to be built in Scotland will be funded by the Scottish Government.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said that 842m would be spent "completely redeveloping" the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow by 2014.

The New South Glasgow Hospital will also incorporate a children's hospital.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will fund about a third of the cost of the project, but the bulk, 552m, will be provided by the Scottish Government.

Ms Robison announced the funding details on Tuesday morning.

She said: "In considering the options for funding this project, the Scottish Government has sought to ensure that the project is deliverable, affordable, sustainable and represents best value for money for the taxpayer.

"With services for all ages - from maternity to paediatric and adult - on a single site, patients will be able to get immediate access to a wider range of specialist services for adults, children and babies alike."

The new hospital will provide 1,109 beds for adults
A 240-bed children's hospital will also be built on site
About 630 beds will be retained on the existing Southern General Hospital site
A new laboratory will provide haematology, blood transfusion and mortuary services

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde recommended public funding over private in its case to the Scottish Government.

The SNP administration has in the past criticised the use of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) to fund public sector building projects, a policy followed by the previous Labour-Lib Dem coalition.

Under PFI, and its "public private partnership" (PPP) successor, a private sector consortium designs, builds and finances a health institution.

It is then rented back to the health board, which is charged for the running costs.

Alex Salmond had promised to introduce not-for-profit trusts as an alternative to PFI, but the SNP's manifesto made it clear that councils and other public bodies would be able to choose how to fund building projects - leaving private finance open as an option.

Labour's health spokeswoman, Margaret Curran, said she supported the rebuild, but also voiced concerns over funding.

"Given the scale of public cash that will be tied up to directly finance this project, the SNP must explain fully what services are likely to be cut and what other developments across Scotland are unlikely to go ahead because of this announcement," she said.

Shona Robison
Shona Robison announced the funding details

Liberal Democrat MSP Robert Brown also welcomed the project but called for more clarity over the timescale of the construction work.

Jackson Carlaw, the Conservative public health spokesman, said: "Scottish taxpayers will be hoping this decision to turn the clock back will not backfire as spectacularly as it did with the building of the new Scottish Parliament which - I need hardly say - was finished way after the scheduled completion date and hundreds of millions of pounds over budget."

The chairman of Glasgow's health board, Andrew Robertson, said the Scottish Government's approval of the project was "truly historic" for the NHS in Scotland.

"Our proposals for the new campus represent the largest investment in health services ever undertaken in Scotland," he added.

He also claimed the building programme would "breathe new life into Govan and the wider area".

'Clear endorsement'

Donald Sime, the health board's employee director, said the fact that the hospital would be publicly funded was "terrific news for both patients and NHS staff".

"Other funding routes could have meant NHS staff tendering for the opportunity to provide services such as catering, cleaning and other support services," he said.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said the move was a "clear endorsement" of the view that PFI and "other models" of financing public sector projects were flawed.

The Southern General development would signal the end of acute services at Glasgow's Western Infirmary and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill.

In-patient acute services would also be transferred from the city's Victoria Infirmary.

Glasgow City Council has already granted outline planning permission for the development.

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