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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

£20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future