1 in 5 of Boris Johnson’s ’40 new hospitals’ won’t be built in time for 2030 deadline
One-fifth of the 40 new hospitals promised by Boris Johnson will not be built in time for the 2030 deadline, the Government has admitted, but it insists the programme will be delivered as planned.
The Treasury has promised £20bn in principle to fund the construction projects, although the money will not be committed in full until after the general election.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said today that the promise to build 40 new hospitals by the end of the decade still stands, despite scepticism that it can be met.
But eight of those originally included in the scheme will no longer be completed by 2030, the minister said. They will be replaced by five projects to restore crumbling hospitals at risk of catastrophic accidents, and three mental health units.
Funding for the “new hospital programme” was increased from just £3.7bn to £20bn, Mr Barclay told MPs – but the newly promised money will not be handed over by the Treasury until the next spending review, scheduled for after the general election, meaning that its fate will be decided by whoever is Chancellor in the next Government.
The eight hospitals facing a confirmed delay are in Berkshire, North Devon, East Sussex, Hampshire, Nottingham, Lancashire and two in London.
Airedale in West Yorkshire, Queen Elizabeth King’s Lynn in Norfolk, Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire, Mid Cheshire Leighton in Cheshire and Frimley Park in Surrey have all been added to the scheme because they are thought to be at risk of collapse due to problems with the lightweight concrete used to build them.
The programme has also been hit by the impact of inflation, with construction costs far higher than they were at the time of the last election. Labour’s Wes Streeting called on the Health Secretary to “come clean” over the likelihood that the promise will not be kept, saying: “I simply do not see or understand how he will be able to deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030.”
One insider involved with the project said it was “just not credible” to build all the hospitals in the timeframe promised because the scheme had been “massively underfunded” from the start with inflation making it more difficult.
Mr Barclay said: “As we approach the 75th anniversary of our fantastic NHS, this extra investment will ensure it can care for patients for decades to come and help cut waiting lists so they get the treatment they need quicker.”
Analysis: A controversial promise
The pledge to build 40 new hospitals has been controversial ever since Boris Johnson made it during the 2019 election campaign.
Very quickly it became clear that not all the “new hospitals” were in fact fully new, or were actually entire hospitals – many were refurbishments or new wings of existing hospitals.
And experts cast doubt on both the timescale and funding for the project, questioning whether there was any chance of completing it by the 2030 deadline.
The Government says that two of the 40 hospitals are complete, and another five have been started. Five hospitals in urgent need of repair were added to the scheme, along with three mental health units.
Nine more hospitals are ready to proceed imminently, but the majority of those originally promised will not start construction until after the next general election.
Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, wants to speed up the building process and make it cheaper by using “modular” construction with standardised components fitted together rather than designing each from scratch.