Labour has pledged to deliver a County Durham hospital amid ongoing confusion over whether it will be built. 

The proposed new Shotley Bridge Hospital in Consett was due to open in 2025 but has faced repeated delays. Work is yet to start on the site despite receiving planning approval in March 2023. 

It was included in the Conservative’s 40 New Hospitals Programme in 2020, but health officials revealed in February the government was yet to approve the project. A decision was due at the end of June, but, the general election on July 4 is believed to have delayed the process. 

Locals say the severe delays to the project are down to it being included as part of the Tories' pledge to build 40 new hospitals throughout the UK by 2030.

The Northern Echo: An artist's impression of how the new hospital could lookAn artist's impression of how the new hospital could look (Image: The Northern Echo)The government said Shotley Bridge was later added “following an assessment that showed it met the longstanding criteria for selection including clinical need and backlog maintenance”. 

Labour has now announced its commitment to fulfil the Tory pledge, as it bemoaned how no new hospitals have been built five years since the announcement. Inflated building costs mean the project is now between £50-60m, which is “significantly above where we started two years ago,” officials in charge said. 

At a February Durham County Council health scrutiny meeting, Lib Dem councillor Dominic Haney of Consett South, said: “My community is being denied a facility that should have been well on its way by now.”

Labour claims that contracts for the New Hospitals Programme put out to tender by the government this year extend to 2035, suggesting that it was planning for a five-year delay.

Wes Streeting, shadow health secretary said: “Rishi Sunak has promised voters he’ll build 40 new hospitals by 2030, despite his government planning to delay it for another five years. He is either lying to the public or doesn’t have the first clue what’s going on.”

And welcoming the news of her party’s pledge, Liz Twist, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Blaydon and Consett, said: “In 2019, the Tories promised a new hospital for Consett, yet in the five years since that promise we have seen no further developments.

“The 40 new hospitals scheme needs delivering and Labour is committed to it. Yet again Labour is ready to step in where the Tories have failed.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Tories would fulfil their commitment to build the hospitals by 2030 despite funding and timeline concerns and said “spades were in the ground” at some sites.

The Northern Echo: The hospital is set to be built on Genesis Way, Consett. The hospital is set to be built on Genesis Way, Consett. (Image: The Northern Echo)

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The Liberal Democrats have also pledged to build the hospital.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We continue to make good progress across our New Hospital Programme, with six new hospitals already open to patients. Two more are expected to open by the end of the financial year, and another 18 are under construction or have work ongoing to prepare the sites.”

The County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was contacted for comment.