Unless you've been in hiding, you will probably be aware of plans to build a new hospital in Basingstoke.

For years, there has been discussions about the NHS constructing a bigger and improved hospital to serve the ever-growing town.

In 2017, this nearly came into fruition after planning was approved for a brand new critical care site next to the M3 at North Waltham.

But after five years of planning, the NHS decided to ditch the plans after deeming it to be 'too expensive'. 

This frustrated the town's MP Maria Miller who said questions needed to be asked about the efficency of the NHS, wasting five years and public money in the process.

Fast-forward to 2019, the prime minister last year pledged cash to build '40 new hospitals'. Among the beneficaries was Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the arm of the NHS which runs Basingstoke hospital. 

Mrs Miller said a new hospital would be built in Basingstoke but this was met with a cooler response from Hampshire Hospitals who said no location has been confirmed and they are considering options. 

Basingstoke Gazette: Plans to build a £336m hospital next to the M3 were scrapped by NHS England in 2017 Plans to build a £336m hospital next to the M3 were scrapped by NHS England in 2017

And this year, the Trust's chief executive Alex Whitfield has instead said they are considering locations around the areas they serve: Basingstoke, Andover and Winchester.

This could mean Basingstoke residents lose out. 

So where does this bring us to now?

The Trust has entered an 'engagement' stage where it is asking the public's opinion before it takes steps to determine the location. 

Mrs Miller has already spoken of her desire for the hospital to be built in the town, which is due to swell in size over the next decade with housing developments the size of Salisbury being added to Basingstoke's existing population. 

With this in mind, we caught up with the spokesman for Hampshire Hospitals to find out exactly what is going on and how residents can make an impact. 

1. There has been much discussion about a new hospital being built in Basingstoke, but what steps need to be taken in order for this to happen?

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was last year selected as one of the trusts selected to receive capital funding for a new hospital as part of the government’s Health Infrastructure Programme, so we know that the money is available.

What we are currently doing during is asking patients, staff, carers and the people of north and mid Hampshire in general to help us shape how and where health services are delivered.

This includes where a new hospital might be built, so if anybody has a view on this, it is really important that they get involved in the engagement process to ensure that their opinions are heard at this early stage.

The next step is to work out which of the possibilities could work. Then, taking into account a wide range of factors, including the feedback received from patients and the public, decisions will be taken on which works best. Work to design the building will then begin, before we ask the Treasury, Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS for permission to start building.

2.  Who is responsible for Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital?

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust runs Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital, as well as Andover War Memorial Hospital and Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups is responsible for buying the hospital services provided at Basingstoke hospital on behalf of the NHS.

3.  Who will make the decision about where a new hospital will be built?

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Group has the final say on all decisions that involve major service change in the north of Hampshire, working alongside West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group, who do the same job in the Winchester and Andover areas.

Both organisations are working in partnership with Hampshire Hospitals on this project and the decision on the location of the new hospital will be taken by all three organisations together.

4. How will this decision be made?  

A wide range of information, including the feedback received as part of this initial programme of engagement, will be used to produce a long list of possibilities, which will then be turned into a shortlist, with the possibility of a preferred option being selected at that point.

Public consultation will then be carried out on this shortlist, with the feedback received during this helping to inform a final decision on where the new hospital will be situated, the services that will be provided there and what happens at the existing sites.

5.  Who is the Clinical Commissioning Group and what is their role? 

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Group brings together local GPs and experienced healthcare professionals to commission health services for local people. This means they are responsible for buying a range of health services in the area on behalf of the NHS, including the hospital services provided at Basingstoke hospital.

At the moment, we are asking interested people to get involved in discussions about the possibilities of a new hospital, as well as sharing their experiences and aspirations.

That feedback will help us to develop a shortlist of proposals, which will form the basis of a public consultation due to take place in 2021. The feedback received during public consultation will then be considered as part of the final decision-making process.

7. How can the public have their say? 

It is really important that patients, staff and the public get the opportunity to have their say throughout the process.

In this engagement phase, we are offering everybody the chance to have their say in three different ways.

The first is by attending one of our online engagement sessions. We are inviting members of patient groups, professional groups and community groups to attend targeted sessions and are also running a number of public events, focusing on a particular area that might be affected or healthcare speciality.

These sessions begin with attendees getting an introduction to the programme before a discussion, during which their questions are answered and views noted. A full list of all the events can be found at www.hampshiretogether.nhs.uk/events.

The second way of telling us what you think is by visiting our website, www.hampshiretogether.nhs.uk, where you can read a listening document that gives an introduction to the programme, details the challenges faced by the health system as it is currently set up, lists the opportunities offered by the programme, both in the new hospital and in terms of new ways of working across the health and care system, and sets out what needs to be taken into account when making decisions. You can then complete an online comment form, giving you the opportunity to have your say on the issues and let us know what is important to you.

Of course, we realise that not everybody has access to the technology needed to attend events or access the website. While we are currently unable to hold physical events, these will be part of our programme as the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, we have created a freepost address: FREEPOST Hampshire Together. People can send their address to us and we will provide them with a printed version of the listening document and comment form for them to fill in and return, again using the freepost address.

8. Which sites are being looked at and whereabouts are they?

We’re looking at a number of sites across the area covered by Hampshire Hospitals, but that information is commercially sensitive at the moment and will be released in due course.  

9.  What is the difference between a public consultation and engagement?

Engagement is a continuous process. We are constantly taking comments and feedback from patients, carers and families on our services and their experiences to help us adapt and improve.

In a programme to build a new hospital, there are lots of ways in which patient participation can inform and influence the development of proposals. That way we know that the proposals we present in a pubic consultation will already take account of a wide range of community views.

Public consultation is a formal opportunity to submit comments and feedback on specific proposals that will feed directly into the local NHS decision about the size, shape and location of the hospital it wants to build.

Most service changes in the NHS don’t require a formal public consultation. Those that do include proposals that affect a large number of people, or change the location of a service. In this case, possibly moving a hospital does both.

A consultation leads to a decision being made about changes to health and care. It will be designed to get communities involved in decision making and to help us understand how Hampshire residents may be affected by the changes, while Hampshire County Council will be scrutinising the proposals in detail too.