A CONSULTATION on multi-million-pound proposals for a new hospital in Hampshire has been described as 'without question a political issue'.

Cllr Neil Bolton sought assurances from Winchester civic chiefs that the consultation, by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board, was not political. 

However Cllr Kathleen Becker, cabinet member for community and engagement, disagreed. 

The plans are for a new specialist acute hospital on the edge of Basingstoke, using more than £800m government funding. The RHCH would be refurbished and a 24/7 'urgent treatment centre' opened with the downgrading of the A&E unit.

The maternity unit at the hospital would also be downgraded to be mid-wife led. The new hospital would open in 2032. Hospital chiefs were quizzed by the city council in a three-hour meeting at the end of January. 

READ MORE: Health bosses challenged by city council over new hospital plans

Hampshire Chronicle: Cllr Neil Bolton

Speaking at the full council meeting on February 22, Cllr Bolton, a Conservative, said: “Do the administration agree that the consultation proposal, Hampshire Together - modernising our hospitals and health services, conducted by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is not a political issue and do the administration agree that this council’s objective should be to encourage all residents to engage with the NHS to understand the true facts and make their views known to the NHS in this process?”

Cllr Becker, a Liberal Democrat, said: “I'm afraid I disagree, the subject of the consultation is without question a political issue. Hampshire Together is part of the government's new hospitals programme. The inclusion in the programme is a political decision. 

“Politics isn't a dirty word, politics is representation. It's therefore right that councillors and local politicians raise issues that residents bring them. Like many people, I want to know more about what exactly is meant by the urgent care and maternity proposals. Also how the trust can make sure public transport is available and affordable. 

“It's absolutely right to ask residents to respond on their own account.”

Council leader Martin Tod said: “It's simply not true that this isn't a political issue. I do accept that the consultation is being done by the NHS on its own behalf. All of us who use Winchester's A&E are very interested in what exactly is meant by the urgent care proposals. I still don't feel I understand it to the degree I'd like. 

“It's absolutely right that councillors and local politicians raise concerns that people bring them. As politicians, we have every right and a duty to respond to that. I make no apologies on behalf of anyone who seeks to engage in that debate.”

The hospital consultation is open until March 17. 

For more information go to hampshiretogether.nhs.uk/.