A NEW hospital for West Yorkshire was given the go-ahead today.
And the Government defended its controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) plans as it announced that another £1.5bn of hospital schemes will go ahead.
The Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust, which covers the Dewsbury area, can go ahead with its plan for a new hospital.
The £343m scheme will see a new hospital replace outdated buildings at both Pinderfields General Hospital in Wakefield and Pontefract General Infirmary.
The new hospital will have wards with many single rooms.
Health Minister Andy Burnham said there was a link between the quality of services provided to patients and the state of some 'clapped out' buildings.
He said new hospitals and premises built under PFI could deliver cash savings for some health trusts and insisted the schemes were tested for value for money.
One trust confirming its PFI plans asked staff to work extra hours for nothing last month in order to balance its books.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent asked employees to do more to help it save cash.
A leaked memo from the director of human resources said the PFI scheme could be put in jeopardy if savings were not made.
It asked staff to consider other ways of saving cash, including taking voluntary redundancy, sabbaticals and carrying holiday time over to the next financial year.
Mr Burnham said PFI and NHS list schemes meant towns that had waited decades for new hospitals could now get them quicker.
When asked whether the NHS could continue to provide so many free services he said he believed strongly that healthcare should be provided through the NHS and not through top-up fees or charges.
Former acting head of the NHS Sir Ian Carruthers will present his report on NHS changes this week.
Mr Burnham said a key recommendation was that where changes were needed, including the closure of hospitals or units, supporting evidence must be put before the public.
But he said people should not stand in the way of progress when the case for change had clearly been made.