Budget 1999: The NHS - pounds 430m will help rebuild crumbling hospitals

THE CRUMBLING buildings and Victorian ward blocks of the NHS persuaded the Chancellor to open his wallet for the second time in less than a year. He announced an extra pounds 430m to smarten up accident and emergency departments and improve GP surgeries.

The sum, to be paid over three years, is in addition to the 50 per cent increase in capital investment in NHS buildings and equipment announced as part of the comprehensive spending review in July. On that occasion Gordon Brown said half the beds in NHS hospitals were in accommodation built before the First World War and three-quarters of ward blocks were hand-me-downs as he announced a 66 per cent increase in the Treasury's contribution, from pounds 1.2bn to almost pounds 2bn over the three years.

Yesterday he topped that increase with an additional pounds 120m for the UK next year, representing the first instalment of the pounds 430m. However, this time the cash is to be spent on the NHS's two front doors - casualty departments and GPs' surgeries. The money will be used to "upgrade every single accident and emergency department which needs it in every part of the country", Mr Brown said. That follows hard on the heels of the pounds 30m allocated by the Department of Health for the same purpose only last month.

It will also be used - although how the pounds 120m was to be divided was unclear last night - to upgrade GP surgeries, some of which have not come far since they were described 20 years ago by a former health secretary as "like gangers' huts under the railway arches".

The NHS Confederation, representing health authorities and trusts, said the boost to capital spending represented a 10 per cent increase in the contribution from the Treasury (the rest coming from the private sector via the Private Finance Initiative).

Stephen Thornton, chief executive, said: "This is pretty good and we are very pleased. My only hesitation is - why A&E departments? The NHS has suffered a huge backlog of maintenance for more than a decade. We do have a major problem of capital maintenance. We are still operating out of Victorian institutions, which is pretty surprising in a modern economy."

He said concentrating on the NHS's front door was a reasonable priority for the Chancellor to choose but it might not accord with local wishes. "First impressions are important and the physical quality of some of our A&E departments is pretty deplorable. Let's have more capital but let's give more discretion to local people to decide how it is spent."

The British Medical Association welcomed the extra spending on hospital buildings. Mac Armstrong, secretary, said: "We saw A&E departments stretched to the limit this winter. Modernising our facilities will improve services ... should defuse the tensions which result when patients wait for hours in unsatisfactory conditions and relieve stress on doctors and nurses."

The Chancellor gave notice that the Health Department plans to build on the success of NHS Direct, the 24-hour helpline, which is being rolled out to the whole country by the end of next year.

Later this week Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health, is to give details of plans to "carry NHS Direct right into communities - with a network of health centres and drop-in centres where people can get immediate advice about treatment", Mr Brown said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Guru Careers: Communications Exec / PR Exec

£25 - £30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a highly-motivated and ambitious Comm...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral