Government claims to be building 40 new hospitals came under challenge after it emerged that funding was in place for only six.
Boris Johnson won headlines with his claim that he was providing “additional funding for 40 new hospitals to be built over the next decade”.
But health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that while some £2.7 billion has been allocated to six hospital trusts for building projects for completion by 2025, the other 34 projects for delivery by 2030 have so far been promised just £100 million of “seed funding”.
The first six projects include extensions to existing hospitals, as well as new buildings on separate sites, and will not require the demolition of facilities to provide land for construction.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the government announcement was “unravelling”.
And the party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Yet again a Boris Johnson health announcement has quickly unravelled as spin. This isn’t 40 new hospitals, it is just reconfiguring six.
“New investment is desperately needed and of course we welcome any genuine new money, but patients and demoralised NHS staff are fed up of being taken for fools like this.
“Is it really too much to ask Boris Johnson to simply tell the truth for a change?”
In comments released last night, Mr Johnson stated: “Today we’re investing more money to support our NHS.
“We’re providing additional funding for 40 new hospitals to be built over the next decade. This will transform our NHS for millions of patients and hard-working staff.”
Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that, while sums had been allocated from tax revenues to fund the first six projects, “the rest of the money will come in the future”.
The “seed funding” will allow hospital trusts to carry out design and planning work in preparation for the moment funds become available to start construction, he said.
Under the government’s Health Infrastructure Plan, hospitals will not have to rely on raising funds through the abolished Private Finance Initiative, which left many trusts paying ever-rising bills to private companies for years after the construction of facilities.
Instead, hospital investment will be funded with taxpayers’ money.
The six hospital projects to be completed in the first phase from 2020-25 are at Whipps Cross Hospital in north-east London; Epsom and St Helier Trust in Surrey; West Hertfordshire Trust; Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust in Harlow, Essex; University Hospitals of Leicester Trust; and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. Projects range in value from around £100 million to over £1 billion.
Some £200 million will also be spent on replacing MRI and CT scanners and breast cancer screening equipment, so that none is more than 10 years old.
In a second phase, running from 2025-30, the government aims to spend an additional £9.4 billion on another 21 schemes delivering 34 new hospitals.
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