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TORY promises to deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030 will not be met, a public watchdog has said.
Critics slammed the government’s “woeful progress” and attempts to “move the goalposts” after the National Audit Office (NAO) forecast eight will not be built by the deadline.
Its “utterly damning” report also warned that a decision to minimally fund the New Hospitals Programme (NHP) risked hospitals being built too small.
This would also likely see many schemes being built simultaneously, “potentially increasing costs,” with work on buildings in the second cohort of the multibillion-pound scheme yet to have started as of May, the watchdog said.
The Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) “broad definition of new” includes building refurbishments within the NHP, and plans to develop an “innovative standardised hospital design — known as Hospital 2.0” have also been delayed, said the NAO.
The government “has not achieved good value for money with NHP so far” said the watchdog, recommending ministers and health bodies avoid making announcements on major capital programmes that do not “fully reflect known uncertainties.”
NAO chief Gareth Davies added: “Delivery so far has been slower than expected, both on individual schemes and in developing the Hospital 2.0 template, which has delayed programme funding decisions.
“There are some important lessons to be drawn for major programmes from the experience of the NHP so far.”
Health chiefs said trusts were “deeply disappointed” in the delays, while opposition critics demanded that Health Secretary Stephen Barclay appear in Parliament immediately to respond to the findings.
NHS Providers chief executive Sir Julian Hartley said: “Many trusts in the NHP are deeply disappointed that their building plans won’t be delivered before 2030 and many more trusts were disappointed not to be offered funding at all.
“The government could have better managed expectations about the funding available, given the uncertainty involved and the impact of inflation.”
Chair of Parliament’s public accounts committee Dame Meg Hillier MP accused the DHSC of “trying to move the goalposts” so it could claim it had met the target.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “The Conservatives have overpromised, underdelivered, and they’ve been found out.”
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said it was an “utterly damning report.”
Dr Tony O-Sullivan, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, told the Morning Star: "We are used to the lies of this Government. 40 hospitals by 2030 promised by Johnson in October 2019 helped win him the election.
"Now the Sunak/Barclay bus has no hesitation in continuing the lie, but they’ve been called out by the NAO.
"The wheels of lies are spinning fast while hospitals are crumbling and both the NHS and the British public are being let down and betrayed."
The DHSC said: “We remain firmly committed to delivering these hospitals, which are now expected to be backed by over £20 billion of investment, helping to cut waiting lists so people can get the treatment they need quicker.”
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