A decision on whether to approve the £559 million rebuild of Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital will be made "as quickly as possible", Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt pledged.

The long-awaited rebuild, which will create a new 1,249-bed acute hospital, has been in limbo while the Government decides whether to grant final approval. It will be funded using the controversial Private Finance Initiative scheme.

Ms Hewitt said: "I know everyone in Birmingham is very keen to get the hospital under way as quickly as possible. But I also know that people understand that with these huge amounts that will be committed it is very important we have the right proposal, and best value for money, before we sign the deal."

She said the Government had been through the same process with a similar scheme at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, which was approved earlier this month.

"We will make a decision about the Queen Elizabeth, and make an announcement as quickly as we can, for the people of Birmingham."

There was some good news for the hospital in the Budget, when the Treasury published plans for a £26 billion expansion of the PFI.