Government will miss target of 40 new hospitals, scathing report from spending watchdog finds

"By the definition the government used in 2020, it will not now deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030.”

Remember the Tory manifesto pledge to build 40 new hospitals? The promise was made as part of the December 2019 election campaign by the Conservative party.

Well that pledge lies in tatters, the National Audit Office (NAO) has found. Not only will the government miss its target of building 40 new hospitals, it has not achieved ‘good value for money’ and cost cutting measures also mean that some of the new planned hospitals are too small.

The NAO wrote in its report: “By the definition the government used in 2020, it will not now deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030.” It also said that the government has used a “broad” definition of “new”, which includes refurbishment of existing buildings as well as completely new hospitals.

Furthermore, when initial plans were set out by the health department in October 2020, eight hospital construction projects already under way were not included in the target, however the government has now started to include them when it makes statements about 40 new hospitals.

The spending watchdog says that the government is expected to deliver 32 of the intended target of 40 new hospitals by 2030. In a press release, the NAO notes: “Excluding the eight pre-existing schemes, the NAO’s analysis of the 32 new hospitals detailed in October 2020 suggests 11 (34%) represented whole new hospitals, with another 20 meeting other elements of DHSC’s definition, while one scheme does not meet the definition.”

It also warns that due to cost cutting measures some of the new hospitals will be too small. and adds: “The design for a standardised hospital is delayed. There have been shortages of technical staff and it will not now be completed until May 2024. The delays have constrained NHP’s (New Hospital Programme) ability to engage with industry. Furthermore, the NAO finds that NHP’s “minimum viable product” version of Hospital 2.0, which is intended to achieve key objectives at the lowest possible cost, may result in hospitals that are too small.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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