Hospital plans receive boost after Houchen re-elected

Proposals for a new hospital in County Durham could move forward after Ben Houchen was re-elected as Tees Valley mayor.

Conservative politician Houchen secured his third term in the post after running on a platform including a pledge to replace the University Hospital of North Tees.

Houchen has pledged to hold a public consultation on where a new facility would be located after conceding that the current Stockton-On-Tees site is unlikely to be suitable.

In a campaign video last week, Houchen said “…we can build a hospital and we can help fund that hospital and we can make sure that it’s fit for purpose and we can make sure it’s state of the art and we can make sure it provides all of the things that we need to make sure that local people have the health services that are required”.

However, a battle with central government could be on the cards over the proposal.

In January, health department officials told the Yorkshire Post that Houchen did not have powers to build a hospital.

However, Houchen said in his video: “I built train stations. Train stations aren’t in my remit.

“We created the UK’s first and largest freeport. Freeports aren’t in the mayor’s remit.

“I saved the airport from closure. Aviation and airports are not within the mayor’s remit.

“It doesn’t need to be within my remit to build the building.”

Houchen said that once built, the proposed building would be handed over to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Houchen said he was looking into the preferred option of building the hospital in phases on the current site, but that “it’s looking unlikely or potentially unlikely that that could be the case”.

He held off competition in the vote from Labour’s Chris McEwan, who had pledged to “join up our transport system, fix our broken roads and continue to support the airport”.

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