The government has cut back the funding for eight promised ‘new hospitals’ once again, according to a report by the HSJ, which has learnt that the ‘pathfinder’ cohort of new hospitals, will receive just £1m each in 2022-23, an amount that falls far short of what is needed for the projects to progress and what the trusts had expected.

The ‘pathfinder’ cohort of new hospitals is part of the government’s promised ‘48 new hospitals’ (previously 40 new hospitals), although it is now known that most of the projects are not new hospitals. There are only 13 complete rebuilds or new hospitals, with the other projects including a combination of A&E expansions, treatment units or upgrades, 14 projects that have no confirmed funding or plans, and eight that haven’t been announced yet.

Back in 2019, six of the eight ‘pathfinder’ cohort of projects for complete new hospitals, were reported to be “ready to go” by the then health and social care secretary Matt Hancock and were scheduled for completion by 2025. At the time The Lowdown published an analysis of the ‘40 new hospitals’ claim showing that it did not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

Then in 2020 the government’s New Hospitals Programme called for the plans for these six new “large hospital builds” to be resubmitted, including a plan with their costs cut back to £400m, which has thrown into question the viability of the schemes.

Since then all the ‘pathfinder’ schemes have been deprioritised by the government and the priority is now on the completion of schemes that can be delivered more quickly and easily – the eight hospital building schemes which predated the New Hospitals Programme, and 10 smaller-scale projects

In January 2022, HSJ reported that only one of the six ‘pathfinder’ trusts, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust, still had a target date of 2025. Three others – Barts (Whipps Cross Hospital), Leeds, and West Hertfordshire – are expected to complete some time in 2026 or later, while schemes in Leicester and Harlow (Princess Alexandra) now lack even a target date. 

However, these dates are now in jeopardy as the trusts have told HSJ that the allocation of £1m to each project from the government, is not sufficient to cover the costs involved and this will mean further delays to work and difficulties progressing the projects. The £1m must cover all costs associated with progressing a project, such as planning, design and consultancy fees.

Although Major construction on the eight “pathfinder” schemes is not due to start for over a year, the trusts still have planning and some early building work to be done before major construction can begin. To make matters worse, the schemes are also now facing significant rising costs due to inflation.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust told HSJ that it needs more than £8m this year and the £1m allocation would mean only the most essential elements of the project could keep operating. And West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust’s deputy chief executive,, Helen Brown, told a public meeting earlier in May that the £1m funding was “not sufficient to complete what we consider to be essential work to keep progressing our plans”. 

See also

Truth behind Johnson’s “40 new hospitals” claim – The Lowdown

Checking up on Johnson’s fake forty new hospitals – The Lowdown

48 new hospitals? Only one by 2025 – The Lowdown


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