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.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Customer Service Executive / Inbound Customer Service Agent

£18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...

ASP.NET Web Developer / .NET Developer

£60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album