Health Secretary Steven Barclay told MPs on Thursday ministers would meet a 2019 manifesto commitment to build 40 “new hospitals” by 2030 - but that some needed to be delayed, so that hospitals with more pressing issues can be built first.
This means that a rebuild of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington may not be fully completed by 2030 as originally planned.
According to the Government planned refurbishment and expansion works on Charing Cross Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital will also not be fully completed by 2030, as first pledged. All three are run by Imperial College NHS Trust.
Professor Tim Orchard, chief executive of the Trust, said Thursday’s announcement “does not reflect our understanding” of what was happening with the works, and that it was “continuing to explore” options to make them happen by 2030.
However, he warned: “If we waited until 2030 to start building works at St Mary’s, it would become impossible to continue to patch up our oldest facilities, many of which house key clinical services.
“As the provider of London’s busiest major trauma centre and host of the NHS’s largest biomedical research centre, that would be hugely damaging for the health and healthcare of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Labour MP for Westminster North Karen Buckley said: “This is, frankly, terrible news for St Mary’s/Imperial.
“Staff will continue to do their best to deliver quality patient care but as the physical condition of the hospital continues to deteriorate that task is going to get harder and harder.”
Instead, five hospitals elsewhere in the UK at risk of collapse or in need of an upgrade will be prioritised, due to the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). These include Frimley Park in Surrey and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.
The material, a lightweight form of concrete, has a limited shelf-life, meaning it can be prone to crumbling or collapse.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Barclay said of the delayed hospital schemes: “The work will start on these schemes over the next two years but they will be part of a rolling programme where not all work will be completed by 2030.
“This is a reflection of the disruption that two years of the Covid pandemic has caused as well as the pressure from construction inflation.”
The postponement for Charing Cross, St Mary’s and Hammersmith Hospitals comes despite NHS data showing they have some of the biggest “high risk” catalogue of repairs needed in the country at £155 million, £126 million and £68 million respectively.
These are the sums needed to fix defects which urgently need fixing to prevent catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or safety failings resulting in serious injury.
However, major hospital builds at Whipps Cross, Hillingdon and Sutton will be completed by 2030, Mr Barclay told the Commons.
Work will also start “imminently” on Moorfields Eye Hospital, said Mr Barclay, which is due to have a new eye care, research and education facility built.
Mr Barclay told the Commons the UK-wide programme of works was the “biggest hospital building programme in a generation.”
But Labour has thrown doubt on the Government’s £20bn pledge to complete 40 ‘new hospitals’ by 2030, with Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting accusing ministers of “overpromising and under delivering.”
“It is not clear that the government has the money or the time to deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030,” he said.
“After 13 years of neglect, the NHS estate is crumbling. The Conservatives literally didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining and now patient safety is at risk.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper added it was “pie in the sky”.
“There is still no sign of these new hospitals and today confirms for some, there will be no spades in the ground for years to come. What a farce,” she said.
“It is a hammer blow for patients being treated in crumbling wards and nurses working in dangerous conditions. It is a national scandal that our hospitals are being left in this state.”