Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said he will hold health secretary Steve Barclay’s “feet to the fire” to ensure that Cornwall’s new women and children’s hospital unit is built. The Labour MP visited Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro today to meet health bosses.

After being shown the plans for the new unit – which was one of the 40 “new hospitals” promised in 2019 by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson – Mr Streeting accused the Government of “dithering and delaying” over the new unit. The completion date for the new unit has slipped since it was first announced, whilst the total cost of the project has risen considerably to more than £ 290 million.

Local councillors have expressed concerns about whether the unit will be built due to the continued delays which have been said to be due to a decision on funding the project by the Government.

Mr Streeting said: “Let me reassure local residents, I will be going back to Westminster and holding Steve Barclay’s feet to the fire because the frustrating thing about the delays to the new hospital building is not only does it sell patients and staff short it also costs the taxpayer more money. Every year we delay new hospital construction, and the building costs are going through the roof because the Conservatives crashed the economy and let inflation soar.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting on visit to Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro with Labour Parliamentary candidates Perran Moon and Jayne Kirkham
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting on visit to Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro with Labour Parliamentary candidates Perran Moon and Jayne Kirkham (Richard Whitehouse/LDRS)

“It is really not fair to NHS leaders here in this trust who are doing their level best for patients to have that cloud of uncertainty hanging over them. I want them to have that new hospital building as soon as possible, they have got a plan that is ready to go, that could deliver a new hospital here by May 2028, if the Government gets its skates on who knows, maybe they could get it done sooner? But if the government dither and delay anymore I worry about whether or not that building is going to materialise.”

During his visit to Treliske Mr Streeting was joined by Labour Parliamentary candidates Jayne Kirkham (Truro and Falmouth) and Perran Moon (Camborne and Redruth). They said they wanted the shadow health minister to understand Cornwall’s unique issues in health and social care.

, After his tour of the hospital Mr Streeting said: “It has been really impressive to see the efforts that staff are making to try and reduce waiting times and the maternity services, in particular, are really valued by patients due to the quality of care they receive. But I was really struck by how demoralised the staff are at the moment. I think they are burned out, they are working on understaffed shifts and, despite the best efforts of NHS leaders, they are really struggling with recruitment and retention.

“Unless you have the staff the NHS needs the patients won’t get treated on time which is why Labour has got a fully costed, fully funded plan to deliver the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history, more doctors, more nurses, more midwives, more district nurses in people’s homes, more health visitors because I think people have seen in recent months Cornwall has been bearing the brunt of what is a national NHS crisis. I think that is why I am here today, I think people in Cornwall have had it harder than most other parts of the country at times.”

One of the key issues in Cornwall has been delays in discharging people from hospitals following treatment but being unable due to a lack of care packages available to support them at home. Mr Streeting said that addressing social care was a key part of helping the NHS.

He said: “I think the hospital here is making real efforts to tackle the bottleneck at the front door of the hospital but unless the social care capacity is there in the community they are struggling to discharge people who are well enough to leave but need support in the community.

“That is why Labour is committed to double the number of district nurses qualifying and providing 5,000 more health visitors so that people can receive more help at home, but we have also committed to sorting out the appalling levels of pay that care workers receive because unless we pay our careworkers fairly we are not going to be able to recruit the ones that we need and we are going to lose the great ones that we have who are leaving social care to work in other jobs whether in the NHS but also in retailers that don’t have a very good reputation in some cases but nonetheless pay better and provide better conditions in what is a really important public service.”