Health chiefs insist that plans for a new hospital in Eastbourne are still in the works after claims it would not be built.
The town was designated as one of 40 sites in the UK for a new hospital and Liberal Democrat candidates said they wanted “cast-iron assurances” that it would still be happening.
An East Sussex Healthcare Trust worker told The Argus staff at Eastbourne District General Hospital had been told the city “wouldn’t get a hospital” and that it was a “blatant lie”.
But hospital officials have refuted this claim and reiterated that the plans are live.
The staff member said there was hope for “some improvements” to the current building.
Former health minister Maria Caulfield, an MP for Lewes, said the plans were discussed in the summer and she “expected an announcement shortly” on the timescale on all new hospitals from now to the government’s 2030 target.
The Lewes MP also said Eastbourne District General Hospital will be getting a double-storey surgical unit, with work expected to start in the new year with the hope of opening in summer 2024.
Liberal Democrat candidate for Eastbourne and Willingdon Josh Babarinde said: “Our community needs and deserves the new hospital the Conservatives promised us. This is essential if we are to have any chance of returning the basic services that the hospital has lost in recent years.
“There is no sign of this new hospital that we were all promised. It feels like the government is taking us for granted.”
Lewes MP candidate James MacCleary said he has written to Maria Caulfield and Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell to ensure the hospital will still be built.
The Department of Health and Social Care’s “communications playbook” that was distributed to the trusts in August 2021 reportedly says, under its definitions of a new hospital, that this could include “a major new clinical building in an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, provided it contains an entirely new clinical service”.
A spokesperson for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said: “We are working with the Department of Health and Social Care and England’s new NHS hospital program on our business case scheme with the scheme due to be delivered in the second half of this decade.
“At this stage, a range of options are being considered including new buildings and redevelopment at Eastbourne District General Hospital.”
Caroline Ansell, Conservative MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, said she was in a meeting with Conservative MP Ms Caufield this week to discuss the government’s “new modular building approach”.
Modular buildings are prefabricated buildings that are built off-site and assembled at the final location.
Ms Ansell said: “Hundreds of millions of pounds of government investment in health services in Eastbourne and East Sussex is just good news.
“How this is spent will ultimately be up to our hospital leaders and I am working closely with them and my MP colleagues to achieve this once-in-a-generation spend.
“A lot of work is going on and we expect to know more and report imminently. In fact, a very positive meeting on the new hospital program with the trust took place just this week, where the government’s new approach to modular construction was discussed.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said it has committed £3.7 billion to the hospital programme, meaning the budget has increased year on year from £580m in 2021-22 to £1.6bn in 2024-25.