Doctors and managers have welcomed the announcement of an extra £2.8bn investment which will enable six NHS trusts to undertake long awaited major rebuilding work. Some 21 other schemes will also receive a share of £100m of seed funding to develop business cases for further rebuilding schemes.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock described the investment as the "largest hospital building programme in a generation" and part of a new long-term Health Infrastructure Plan. It is estimated that across England alone the NHS faces a £6bn repairs and maintenance backlog - much of which is crucial to patient safety.
While the British Medical Association (BMA) welcomed the investment, its chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that still more needs to be done to improve primary and social care. And Niall Dickson the chief executive of NHS Confederation said investment was needed across the country particularly in rebuilding mental health and community services.
The Plan sets out a long-term programme of investment in health infrastructure, including capital to:
- build new hospitals
- modernise our primary care estate
- invest in new diagnostics and technology
- help eradicate critical safety issues in the NHS estate
At the centre of this plan is a new hospital building programme, which the government has launched with a £2.8bn investment that gives six new large hospitals the funding to go ahead now, aiming to deliver by 2025.
A further 21 schemes have been given the go-ahead with the seed funding they need to develop their business cases, with the aim of delivering between 2025 and 2030, subject to business case approvals.
In total this programme involves more than 40 hospital building projects as some schemes involve the development of more than one hospital site. All local areas will have the opportunity to bid to be part of future funding rounds.
The six trusts getting £2.7bn in funding to develop new hospitals are:
- Barts Health Trust
- Epsom and St Helier Trust
- West Hertfordshire Trust
- Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust
- University Hospitals of Leicester Trust
- Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust
The 21 schemes receiving £100 million of seed funding include:
- Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge
- Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham
- North Manchester General Hospital
The announcement follows the government’s recent commitment of £1.8bn in capital funding for 20 hospital upgrades and other critical infrastructure works for the NHS, as well as the announcement last week of £200m to replace more than 300 diagnostic machines across the country to help drive earlier cancer diagnosis and improve survival.
BMA council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said the announcements were "a positive step forward" but he said that with fewer hospital beds per population compared to other European countries, and a backlog in maintenance and repairs totalling billions, "this will clearly not be enough to deliver what is needed".
Dr Nagpaul called for greater investment in primary and social care as just as important: “As doctors we know that hospitals are only as good as the staff who run them and given the scale of the workforce crisis in the NHS, with 100,000 unfilled vacancies, the government must understand the importance of addressing this if they are to successfully deliver their plan.
“In times of such political uncertainty and with Brexit looming, it is important that any investment promised is delivered with a view not just of the immediate short-term but the long-term sustainability of the NHS that places patients at the core of its motivation.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the announcement was "very welcome and will bring vital investment in some key areas of the country".
"Frontline NHS leaders consistently tell us that crumbling buildings and out of date equipment are holding them back from providing the best care they can for patients. This announcement is therefore a further step in tackling one of the largest areas of unfinished business following last year's new funding settlement for the NHS which did not include capital funding and other key areas of expenditure.
"While this extra investment is very welcome, it represents the start and not the end of what is required. We will need to see more detail shortly and will need to make sure any new money reaches the areas where it will make the most difference.
“Needless to say, there are many other areas of the country that also need similar capital investment and we will push for those local services to be prioritised in future roll outs. In particular, we need to ensure that often overlooked mental health and community services get the investment they need to ensure they can provide the best possible care to patients and service users.”