NAO investigates as ‘new hospitals’ promise now certain to be broken

Amid the turmoil of the change of health secretary and chancellor there is another major question mark over the credibility of another major Tory policy commitment that was key to Boris Johnson’s election victory in 2019 – the promise of “the biggest, boldest, hospital building programme in a generation.”

The National Audit Office is to review the election pledge to build 40 new hospitals as NHS bosses warn for the first time that none of them will be built before the next election in 2024.

The NAO review will investigate the value for money of the new hospitals scheme, and will also look into how many of the 40 are in fact new hospitals rather than extensions or refurbishments. Although they will not report until next year, the findings will certainly prove uncomfortable for whoever is in Downing Street when they are published.

For readers who have not followed this sorry saga of rhetoric disconnected from resources, which has now dragged on almost three years, here is an update.

The Lowdown has been warning since the autumn of 2019 that Boris Johnson’s populist promise soon after taking over as Tory leader to build “40 new hospitals” was a con. Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth promptly branded them the ‘fake forty.

The government’s claims have been rewritten and spun numerous times since then to avoid the embarrassing truth that there was never anywhere near enough money in the pot to build even the six initial schemes that were in theory allocated funding totalling £2.7bn.

Full story in The Lowdown, 6 July 2022