QUESTIONS have been raised as to why there are two versions of a government letter addressed to a hospital boss regarding funding concerns for a new Basingstoke hospital.

As previously reported, Alex Whitfield, the chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT), received a letter from Natalie Forrest, senior responsible owner of the New Hospital Programme (NHP) at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), dated February 7.

In it, she reassured Ms Whitfield over funding fears for a new Basingstoke hospital following the publication of a government report stating that the £22bn funding for the whole NHP programme does not include hospitals in cohort 4. Basingstoke is in cohort 4.

READ MORE: Government responds to funding fears over new Basingstoke hospital

Basingstoke Gazette: The letter dated February 7

However, it has since transpired that an earlier version of the letter dated February 6 has been shared by Basingstoke MP Maria Miller and other Conservative councillors from Basingstoke, with different wording.

In the earlier version of the letter, Ms Forrest, who has reportedly stepped down from her role with the NHP, said: “I am happy to provide reassurance that nothing has changed since the New Hospital Programme announcement in May 2023.”

Basingstoke Gazette: The letter date February 6

The amended version from February 7 is less specific and states: “I am happy to provide reassurance to the people of Hampshire.”

In May 2023 the Government announced that Basingstoke would have between £700m and £900m to build a new hospital.

However, since then, a government report revealed that cohort 4 hospitals were not included in the overall £22bn budget for the scheme.

Stacy Hart, the Women’s Equality Party borough council election candidate for Hatch Warren and Beggarwood, whose petition for Dame Maria to ‘prove’ the funding for a new Basingstoke hospital exists has reached more than 750, said the language used in the amended letter was “more cautious”.

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In a video explaining the issue, she said: “I do not know why changes were made to the letter… but they do show that the language being used by the Government on this funding issue is growing progressively more cautious and the reassurance far more general. In any case, once again there is no addressing of the funding gap.”

She added: “We know that the trust are doing a fabulous job of the consultation. But we have shown that it won’t matter what business case the trust puts to the Government’s New Hospital Programme because the government’s New Hospital Programme has not yet secured that second pot of funding from the Treasury for the cohort 4 hospitals. Our trust could put together the best business case ever written but they are still currently applying to an empty pot with it.”

She is calling for Dame Maria to “tell the truth when things have changed” and for the hospital funding to be secured in the Spring Budget on March 6, adding: “For us, it’s about the issues and not who has the power. Our aim is to do ourselves out of the need to exist. In this campaign, it’s no different. It’s not about party politics and I would be more than happy to shut up about the hospital funding and go away and do something else but our questions simply haven’t been answered. We just want to see this hospital get built.”

Dame Maria and the DHSC have been asked for a comment.