NHS bosses have this week given the green light to the redevelopment of Edgware Hospital nearly four years after its controversial closure as a general hospital.

More than £25million of Government funding announced on Tuesday will transform the site into a state-of-the-art community hospital. 'Blue light' services like accident & emergency and acute care, which were part of the closed general hospital, will not return, but the urgent treatment centre for minor injuries will remain.

Other services will include intermediate care beds, day surgery and outpatients' clinics. The hospital will also include an elderly assessment unit while the popular birth centre will remain.

The timing of the cash injection, predicted by the Times Group in December, is a public relations coup for Hendon MP Andrew Dismore in the run-up to a potential May 3 general election.

A Government-preferred private finance initiative as used at Barnet Hospital will not fund the scheme. Instead around ten acres of the Burnt Oak Broadway site will be sold off for housing to recoup costs after work is completed.

Dr Albert Manning, secretary of the Edgware & Hendon branch of the British Medical Association, welcomed the news, saying: "This is not a substitute by any means but it is some consolation for losing Edgware General Hospital."

Hendon MP Andrew Dismore denied its timing was politically motivated. He said: "The fact is we inherited a closed hospital and it's easier to close one than open it as I have found out over the past four years."

But his Tory opponent, Richard Evans, said: "In principle I'm delighted but a little cynical. I'm surprised about how long this decision has taken and that it's come within weeks of a general election in a marginal ward."

Work is expected to start on the new hospital within weeks.

Diary of events

April 1997: Edgware General controversially closed by John Major's government. Labour promises a review if it wins general election

May 1997: Labour wins but the closure is upheld within a matter of days, prompting further outrage

Autumn 1997: review finally takes place

January 1998: proposals to transform Edgware to a modern community hospital unveiled

March 2001: £25million funding announced to realise plans