The head of the NHS has offered reassurances that the capital funding promised by the Government to build new hospitals and improve existing healthcare estates across England will come to fruition.
In his keynote address to the IHEEM Annual Conference in Manchester last week, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, responded to concerns that the announcement of a £2.8billion capital building programme might be an ‘empty promise’ and ‘too little too late’ to meet the needs of the NHS estate moving forward.
He told the conference: “I am confident the money is real.
“Once we said there would be a new hospital in a certain area; this was given press coverage and local people now expect it to happen.
“We now need to get on with scoping these projects as soon as possible so we can keep the momentum going.”
Estates directors and their partners have kept the show on the road over the past 5-10 years during lean times in terms of resources
And he said estates and facilities experts would be central to delivering on the promises, adding: “Estates directors and their partners have kept the show on the road over the past 5-10 years during lean times in terms of resources.
“A lot of work has been done to keep services safe and we need to get the capital available to deal with operating pressures and backlog maintenance.
“Also, we are going to kick-start the community upgrade programmes that we have not had over the past decade and it is going to have to be done differently to how we are used to doing it.
“The Prime Minister has been talking about it in recent days and we have kicked off that investment programme and there will be more to follow I’m sure.
“Between 1997-2008 we had eight or nine large PFI schemes a year. Now we are recognising we are going to have to use public investment to really make a change.
“And estates teams will be essential in delivering this, and we do not just want more of the same.
“Healthcare is changing and technology brings more opportunities.
“We want to do something far more radical and technology is helping with that.”
His comments came just a matter of days after Boris Johnson announced a £2.8billion investment that gives six new large hospitals the funding to push ahead, with plans to deliver them by 2025.
We need to get on with scoping these projects as soon as possible so we can keep the momentum going
A further 21 schemes were also been given the green light, with the seed funding they need to develop their business cases and with the aim of delivering between 2025-2030.
In total this programme, the Government claimed, involves more than 40 hospital building projects as some schemes involve the development of more than one hospital site.
But Richard Murray, chief executive of the health think tank, The King’s Fund, had said of the plans: “On the face of it, the various schemes being pledged by the Government certainly sound like substantial investment. But these piecemeal announcements are not the same as having a proper, multi-year capital funding plan.
“The lack of clarity around how the new schemes have been selected, and how the pledges fit within the Department for Health and Social Care’s overall financial settlement, makes it difficult to tell how generous the Government is being.”
And he added: “The announcement focuses on new schemes at acute hospitals, but a longer-term investment programme is also needed to tackle the £6billion NHS maintenance backlog, upgrade GP surgeries that are no longer fit for purpose, and modernise the NHS so it can take advantage of new technology, particularly given the ambitions of the NHS Long-Term Plan to develop facilities in the community.
“If the government really wants get the best value out of this new capital spending; it will need considering alongside a comprehensive plan to tackle staffing shortages in both the NHS and social care, future plans for public health spending, and investment in social care, to help keep people well for as long as possible and out of hospital when they don’t need to be there.”