HEALTH secretary Matt Hancock hailed staff in the pressure-hit NHS during his visit to Warrington Hospital – but was unable to commit to releasing funds for a new site in the town.

The senior Tory politician made his way to the Lovely Lane site earlier today, Thursday, and was welcomed by the party’s parliamentary candidates Andy Carter and Wendy Maisey.

He told staff the Government ‘understands the pressures’ they are facing and praised them for their efforts and for embracing new technology.

A number of secret locations have been under consideration for the proposed new hospital in the borough, with the potential for the current land also included.

The issue has formed a significant part of the general election campaign – with the Government being urged to earmark funds for a new facility.

Warrington Guardian:

Health secretary Matt Hancock spoke to staff during his visit to Warrington Hospital today

Mr Carter discussed his campaign to secure funding for a new hospital with Mr Hancock during the visit, which comes a week before voters go to the polls.

Warrington was not included as one of the sites in the Government’s recently announced hospital building programme.

Mr Hancock, Conservative parliamentary candidate for West Suffolk, was unable to commit to releasing cash for a new hospital but says he did not ‘hear from’ Labour’s Faisal Rashid and Helen Jones about the matter while they were MPs.

He said: “I can commit to look at it and to consider the case, I can’t go further than that today because we have got to make sure that we go through a proper process of working out what order these things are done in.

“But what I can say is, in the short term, we are already putting money in.

Warrington Guardian:

Tory health secretary Matt Hancock with parliamentary candidates Andy Carter and Wendy Maisey

“Warrington matters to me because I’ve got family that live in Warrington.

“I know how important the hospital is and, I think, you’re (Mr Carter) a brilliant advocate for it.

“We’ve put in half a million pounds just last week and we’ve been seeing the impact of the money that we put in last year, in terms of helping with this big increase in demand that is coming through A&E.

“I really hope that we can work together on the long-term solutions as well.

“Of course, we have to prioritise with taxpayers’ money and we took the advice, including from the NHS, on where we needed to make immediate progress.”

Warrington Guardian:

Health secretary Matt Hancock with staff and parliamentary candidates Andy Carter and Wendy Maisey during his visit to Warrington Hospital

But the secretary of state for health and social care insists the Government is ‘open to further proposals’.

Mr Carter, who is standing in Warrington South, said he is committed to getting the plans for a new hospital together to pave the way for them to be put in front of Mr Hancock to ‘sign off’.

“That is something that hasn’t happened – we don’t have the plans at an advanced stage and we are not really in that position to make be able to make that bid for finance,” he said.

“I am pleased that you (Mr Hancock) are here today so you can see some of the challenges that people here in Warrington Hospital are facing and the work we have been doing by investing in new scanners and giving that support to help.”

When asked whether the NHS is for sale, Mr Hancock dismissed the claims with a resounding ‘no’.

And he says people can see that the best way to support the healthcare system is by ‘making sure you also have a strong economy that can allow us to put the record sums in’.

“I think we have got a very positive agenda on the NHS, on both improving how it operates and making sure we get record sums in and hire more people, all of which we are going to do,” he added.

Warrington South Labour has shared a letter on Twitter, which was sent by Mr Rashid to the health secretary in October, following his comments claiming he did not 'hear from' the Labour politician.

It tweeted: "More Tory lies campaigning in Warrington South?

"Here's a letter from @FaisalRashidMP back in October urging the health secretary to commit to funding a new hospital in Warrington.

"Today he claimed he hadn't heard anything from Faisal. You can't trust the Tories with our NHS."