Published by BBC NEWS - 8th July 2022
  • Published
NHS constuction siteImage source, Getty Images

Some hospital leaders in England say they are “living with risk” every day, with buildings in urgent need of repair.

According to NHS trust bosses, delays to funding allocations have stalled vital upgrade projects.

Structural safety concerns caused the critical care unit at one trust to be temporarily closed and planned operations were stopped.

The government said it was working closely with trusts on building plans.

The hospital chiefs said one hospital is using temporary generators with no back-up.

Another trust has installed props and steel beams in the maternity unit, BBC News has been told, making life very difficult for staff and mothers, according to hospital managers.

Wooden props supporting a roof

Image source, Shaun Whitmore/BBC

NHS Providers, which represent trusts in England, says the current political situation – with the government looking for a new leader – complicates matters.

Chief executive Saffron Cordery said: “This kind of political paralysis and instability is deeply unhelpful for the NHS when we’ve got a whole range of critical decisions that need to be made not only in capital investments but also NHS pay.”

The organisation says the government’s plan for 40 new hospitals in England by 2030 is “on shaky ground”.

And a survey of members that are part of this new building programme suggests half are not confident the funding they have been allocated will be sufficient to deliver the project.

A number of trusts were still awaiting the go-ahead for “shovel ready” projects, Ms Cordery said.

The programme was “already moving at glacial pace” and a power vacuum at Westminster would be “deeply unhelpful to trusts and their local communities who are waiting for decisions”.

The 40 new hospitals election pledge, made by the Conservatives in 2019, has proved controversial, with debate over what a “new hospital” means.

The Department of Health and Social Care says the definition encompasses:

  • a major new clinical building on an existing site
  • a new wing of an existing hospital
  • a major refurbishment and alteration of a hospital building

The National Audit Office (NAO) says it will start a value-for-money review of the new-hospitals programme later this year.

Gareth Davies, from the NAO, said he had noted comments about the implications of delay for increasing costs at a time of high inflation, and whether all the projects truly met the classification of “new hospital”

One hospital boss not included in the plan suggested it would be cheaper over the next decade to build a new facility than continue propping up and trying to keep the current structure safe.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are working closely with NHS trusts in the programme on the development of their building plans.

“Each of the building projects will be new hospitals providing brand new, state-of-the-art facilities to ensure world-class provision of healthcare for NHS patients and staff by replacing outdated infrastructure.”

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