The breathless press releases and media statements at the end of September spelled out a clear message, which some Tory candidates are now reiterating in the election campaign:

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘We’re providing additional funding for 40 new hospitals to be built over the next decade.’

“Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I love the NHS and I’m incredibly excited to be able to launch the largest hospital building plan in a generation, with 40 new hospitals across the country.’

It’s hard to understand from this over-egged hyperbole that all the Johnson government has done is provide £2.7 billion to fund just SIX new or refurbished hospital projects.

£100 million is also provided as “seed funding” for 21 trusts to draw up plans for another 34 hospital projects – which will potentially cost another £10 billion or more – after 2025.

This is a long way from being the biggest hospital programme in a generation: from 1997 onwards Tony Blair’s government built well over 100 – albeit funded through PFI.

It’s also questionable whether the 34 future projects will ever get beyond the planning stage, since they would need to be agreed and funded by a future government after at least one further election, during or after 2025.

None of the six new hospitals that have been given the “immediate” go-ahead is ready to start work for many months yet.

In South West London management of the Epsom & St Helier trust have decided the debate is about where to build a new £400 million “major acute” hospital. They will have to run a full public consultation, followed by a full business case. This story could run and run.

In North East London there will be a similarly long wrangle over the funding and size of a new hospital to replace the ageing Whipps Cross Hospital. The discussion has not yet even clarified where on the extensive Whipps Cross site the new building should be located.

In Leeds, the Teaching Hospitals Trust has been given the green light to build new hospitals for adults and children on the Leeds General Infirmary site, but the Trust board is far from ready to begin work at once: the project includes ‘sympathetic redevelopment’ of the Grade I listed Gilbert Scott Building.

In Watford, where West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust bosses have been “thrilled” by the funding to build a replacement, there is also an unresolved argument over the location of an acute hospital to serve the catchment area of almost 500,000 people. The Trust has promised to share their proposals “as soon as possible”.

In Harlow, the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust is free to build the long-awaited and interminably-discussed new hospital: management were “thrilled” but warned that there will be some delay before anything actually happens.

In Leicester, a ‘pre-consultation business case’, reputed to be a staggering 1800 pages long has been kept carefully under wraps. Before any new building can commence the Trust needs to brace itself for a full public consultation on reducing from three sites to two, and construct a viable Business Case

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