Canterbury will be one of 40 new towns and cities in the country to get a new hospital according to Boris Johnson.
Speaking to a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister said: “We’re going to invest in South East England, and … we’re putting money into hospitals. I’m delighted to say that Canterbury is going to be one of the 40 new hospitals we’re building.”
The Kent & Canterbury hospital has been gradually downgraded over the last 20 years. An overdue consultation is scheduled to examine whether Canterbury should be demoted to little more than a cottage hospital, or whether services should be repatriated back to Canterbury from Ashford and Thanet hospitals.
Canterbury resident Ed Wilson of Black Griffin lane said: “Canterbury has desperately needed a new hospital for well over a decade.
“For more than ten years the former Tory MP Julian Brazier failed to raise the issue of our hospital in parliament so it’s easy to see why the Conservatives are desperate to be seen to be taking action ahead of the likely general election.”
However, opposition leaders have been swift to condemn the promise as little more than a publicity stunt.
Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield said: “This sounds like more of the bluster that Mr Johnson is famed for spouting.
“He is of course not directly involved in the decisions for healthcare here in East Kent and it appears to be news to our health trust, as well as the MPs in this area who have been campaigning for proper hospital provision for several years against the backdrop of damaging cuts by the Conservative government.
“It is also looking quite likely that Mr Johnson may not be Prime Minister for very long as he has no majority and has lost every vote in Parliament so far.”
Lib Dem leader Michael Dixey added: “Whether it’s being fired as a journalist for making up a quote, his abandoned promise to lie down in front of the Heathrow bulldozers or his £350 million a week for the NHS falsehood he emblazoned along the size of a bus, Boris Johnson has made a career out of lying to the public.
“The government’s official position is that these hospitals won’t be built for at least ten years and they have been unable to say how they will be paid for.”
However Tory parliamentary hopeful Anna Firth defended the announcement saying: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments and am delighted he recognises the need for a new hospital in Canterbury.
“I have been working hard on this while up in Manchester. I have spoken to Matt Hancock the Health Secretary and I am continuing to work with Kent MPs to get more investment in the East Kent NHS Trust to make this happen.”
The NHS consultation which will decide the fate of the hospital has currently been delayed until 2020.