NAO tries to make sense of New Hospitals Programme

The key Tory manifesto promise to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 was always implausible to all but the most gullible fans of Boris Johnson: but now a new report from the National Audit Office has confirmed that there is no chance of the pledge being fulfilled.

It states that just 32 new hospitals “according to [the government’s original definition] might be completed by 2030, with a further eight to be completed later.

At most two of the very smallest schemes might be completed by 2025.

One, of these, the £20m Dyson Cancer Centre in Bath, partly funded by donations from a charity and from the vacuum cleaner magnate Sir James Dyson, is scheduled to include just 22 beds: the other, a new community hospital at Shotley Bridge, which the NAO categorises as a red risk and yet to complete a business case, will be a combination of outpatient facilities with just 16 beds.

Any schemes ready?

None of the six major schemes initially presented as shovel ready back in 2019 (replacing Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow; Watford General Hospital; Whipps Cross Hospital, part of Bart’s trust in East London; a new Specialist Emergency Centre for Epsom & St Helier trust in South West London; reconfiguration of University Hospitals of Leicester; and a new wing for Leeds General Infirmary) has even completed a business case.

These schemes, which were at first expected to be completed by 2025, along with two others are now in ‘cohort 3’, “expected to complete by mid 2030”. The NAO estimates the combined cost of these schemes alone as ranging from £5bn-£10bn.

Full story in The Lowdown, 4 August 2023