Boris Johnson backtracks on Canterbury hospital promise
Image courtesy of: Arno Mikkor
Mr Johnson, who was selected as party leader back in July, made the surprise announcement at a fringe meeting during last month’s party conference. However, the city does not feature on a list of 40 hospital projects earmarked by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.
Footage captures Mr Johnson saying: “Yes, we are going to invest in the southeast. Yes, of course, we are putting money into hospitals. I’m delighted that Canterbury, for instance, is going to be one of the new hospitals we are building.”
A day later, the Department for Health and Social Care (DoH) downplayed the claims, acknowledging that no immediate plans were in the pipeline.
In a statement, the DoH wrote: “The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary recognise the challenges facing acute services in East Kent including Canterbury, and the Department for Health and Social Care look forward to considering this and other bids in future hospital building rounds.”
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, branded Johnson a “liar” and demanded that the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip “apologise for raising hopes of patients and NHS staff in Canterbury like this”.
The shadow minister added: “Yet again this sorry episode proves you simply can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”
This was echoed by Canterbury MP, Rosie Duffield, who has called the PM to formally retract the pledge.
She said: "This gaffe by the prime minister has raised the hopes of many of us living and working in the area who have long-campaigned for fully funded hospital services to be returned to Canterbury.
"The Tory candidate should not be attempting to explain away and excuse the Prime Minister's fake news. A formal retraction and apology need to be forthcoming from No.10 as this would have drawn a line under this some time ago."
Speaking on BBC One's Sunday Politics South East show, the Conservative candidate for Canterbury, Anna Firth, admitted that the Prime Minister “clearly made a mistake” and that he "can't be on top of every little detail".
Despite the omission from No 10, the former barrister remains hopeful that the county will receive funding for a new super hospital to be built over the next few years, as part of the government’s ongoing infrastructure program.
“It was very exciting to hear that it is on his radar. We now know that East Kent is finally on the radar at the highest echelons of government and that is my job to make sure that the Secretary of State knows the people of Canterbury want a new hospital.”
Firth made headlines this summer when she claimed she could convince Boris Johnson to build a Kent and Canterbury super hospital, but many MPs have been critical of the initiative.
Damien Green, former Deputy Prime Minister and Ashford MP, branded the idea “mad”.
Last month, Firth told InQuire and KTV that there will have to be a consultation on the different options in East Kent but argued: “It's absolutely clear if you go to the three hospitals, and you talk to people, there has been more investment in the other two sites. Logically, it's our turn here in Canterbury to get some investment in our health service.
“Whatever the other MPs say, I will be battling and fighting to get that what's good for the people of Canterbury.”
Healthcare in the region remains uncertain, with doctors considering a huge reshuffle of services at the Kent & Canterbury, William Harvey in Ashford, and Queen Mother in Margate.
The government has said that the second phase of new hospitals would include 21 new projects, delivering 34 new hospitals. Seed funding will be rewarded to kick start the schemes and will begin in 2025-2030.