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The price of a Labour marginal? £81 million

Earlier this year Professor Tim Briggs, medical director of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore, threatened to challenge local MP Tony McNulty and stand as an independent candidate for Harrow East. Professor Briggs was angry that after a 15 year campaign for funding to rebuild the hospital and a decision to fund essential repairs two years ago, the hospital remains in a state of disrepair, with rainwater seeping through ceilings and a maintenance backlog estimated at £54 million. The situation had worsened further, when a row between the hospital and NHS London intensified, leading to fears that the hospital could be split up as part of a restructuring process to save money.

Within four days of Professor Briggs announcement, Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Health had agreed an emergency meeting to discuss funding for the hospital. And on the last full business day before the General Election, an £81 million package to rebuild the hospital was announced. Professor Briggs expressed his delight at the decision, but not his surprise. Andy Burnham expressed similar thoughts when the Professor later announced that he would not now seek to join Dr Richard Taylor on the green benches. Making the announcement, Andy Burnham said, “Tony brought me here in 2006 and made the case for the hospital and for his constituency, and for me it was unfinished business.” One wonders why it took four years for the business to be finished?

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