AN ambitious multi-million pound hospital redevelopment will go-ahead but has yet to be signed off by the government.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt visited the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton today and said the government had approved the extra £60 million so that the redevelopment can go ahead.

However the final business case should made before May's general election.

The redevelopment includes demolishing cramped and dilapidated buildings which are almost 200 years old and no longer suitable for 21st century medical care.

The Barry and Jubilee buildings were in use at the time of Florence Nightingale and are believed to be the oldest to still in use by the NHS.

There will also be an expanded cancer centre, and underground car park and helipad installed on top of the hospital’s Thomas Kemp Tower.

This will mean patients airlifted to hospital can be treated more quickly as helicopters will no longer have to use parkland behind the Royal Sussex.

The Treasury and Department of Health agreed to commit to £420m of funding last year by approving an outline business case for the plans.

Since then hospital bosses and the lead contractor have been finalising the proposals and cost have risen by more than £60m to about £486m.

The original budget was first set in late 2009 but the recent improvement in the general economic climate, which is reflected in the construction industry, meant the costs had to be reassessed.

Mr Hunt said: “This government is a huge supporter of this hospital. It’s a hospital that has needed a big new development for very, very many years. The Barry and Jubilee buildings are the oldest buildings in use in the NHS. They pre-date Florence Nightingale.

The costs have gone up since then because of inflation and I can today announce that we will be putting aside an extra £60m to deal with those additional inflationary costs so that the project can go ahead.”

There still got to be a final business case that’s got to be approved and we’ve got to go through the normal processes.

“But the extra money that we are announcing today was the big block because costs have gone up since last year. We’re very pleased to have been able to find that extra £60m.

Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby said “It is brilliant news. I convinced the hospital will be delivered to plan and to the revised financial costs.

“I think it was touch and go at one point.

“I have met with many people in the Treasury and Department of Health and argued the case for Brighton because Brighton is a special place and it needs a special  hospital as well.

“Some negotiations still need to be done but at the end of the day if you know the money’s there, then the negotiations are much easier to deal with.”

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Matthew Kershaw said: “This is very good news. It is a real endorsement of what we are aiming to do and now we can really start to look forward.

“We have to make the final touches to get the full business case approved but this was a huge hurdle to overcome.

“I would like to thank The Argus for the support it has shown for the project right from the start.”

The redevelopment , which will be carried out in three stages, will create scores of jobs both during and after construction.

If all goes to plan, the new-look hospital will be ready by 2023.