West London hospitals lose out in reprioritisation of NHS capital spending

Image above: Charing Cross Hospital; Imperial College Healthcare Trust

Rebuilding of St Mary’s, Charing Cross and Hammersmith downgraded in favour of more urgent work elsewhere

Major building projects to refurbish St Mary’s Hospital, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals have been downgraded in the Government’s reprioritisation of capital spending on the NHS.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay announced in Parliament on 25 May the Government would be spending money on seven hospitals in urgent need of repair:

“An independent assessment shows they are not safe to operate beyond 2030.”

Two of the hospitals were already included in the Government’s building programme, but five are new. These include Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, which has been pictured on the internet recently with thousands of steel and timber support props supporting its dilapidated roof, and Airedale General in Keighley, which has experienced more than 200 leaks in a year.

The Government had underestimated the lifespan of hospitals built with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, but now realises these hospitals built between the mid-1950s and mid-1980s were literally falling apart.

“We now know that RAAC has a limited lifespan with difficult and dangerous consequences for the people who rely on or work in those hospitals,” said Barclay.

As a result, some of the hospitals listed in Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock’s promised building programme announced in October 2020 to be completed by 2030 have now been demoted to a “rolling programme” of building work which will be started but not finished by the end of the decade.

Among them are St Mary’s Hospital, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals, run by the Imperial College Healthcare Trust.

Images above: Professor Tim Orchard; St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington; Imperial College Healthcare Trust

Delay “hugely damaging for the health and healthcare of hundreds of thousands of people”

The chief executive of the Trust, Professor Tim Orchard, says a delay until 2030 for work to begin on St Mary’s Hospital, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals “would be hugely damaging for the health and healthcare of hundreds of thousands of people.”

He said: “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.”

Boris Johnson’s 2019 general election manifesto included a promise to build ’40 new hospitals by 2030′. The Government has committed capital spending of over £20bn, describing it as “the biggest capital investment the NHS will have seen.”

There has been much discussion since then as to whether these were genuinely new hospitals or whether they were mainly refurbishment programmes.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay admitted in an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday 28 May that they are not building 40 new hospitals, they are building five new hospitals and the rest of the capital will be spent on a “range” of work which includes new wings for some hospitals and a programme of refurbishment for others.

Image above: Steve Barclay and Laura Kuenssberg; BBC Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg

West London hospitals now “part of a rolling programme” of work

Mr Barcley also confirmed that some of those on the list, including St Mary’s, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals, were part of a “rolling programme” which would be started by 2030 but not finished by then.

“We are being honest in saying that there will be difficulties on some of the schemes” he said. “The key is that they will be starting work and we will make progress on enabling works…

“We are being honest that some schemes will take slightly longer than 2030.”

The original list published in October 202 promised: “Rebuild of St Mary’s Paddington … Rebuild of Hammersmith Hospital, new clinical academic redevelopment near ICL White City Campus, co-located with Imperial College biomedical campus at White City. Major floor-by-floor refurbishment of Charing Cross.”

In his statement to parliament on 25 May none of these are scheduled for completion by 2030.

“The remaining seven hospitals within this cohort will also proceed as part of the New Hospitals Programme. 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.”

He said the work at Charing Cross would start within the next year:

“At Charing Cross in Hammersmith, work will begin on temporary ward capacity to enable the floor-by-floor refurbishment to proceed.”

Images above: Wes Streeting; Andy Slaughter

“Programme hit with delays and uncertainty for years”

Commenting on the Health Secretary’s statement, Shadow Secretary of State for Health Wes Streeting said:

“The fact is that, thanks to the dither and delay and the churn of personnel from one Health Secretary to another and one Prime Minister to another, the programme has been hit with delays and uncertainty for years …

“This is not just about cost, but about the very real threat to patient safety, which this irresponsible Government are presiding over day in, day out.”

Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter said:

“This is the most shameful, self-serving and nakedly political statement I think I have ever heard. We have heard that Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has the biggest backlog in the country.

“The Government tried for eight years to demolish Charing Cross Hospital, and now they are promising a portacabin there. The only thing that gives me comfort is that the Secretary of State and the whole rotten lot of them will be out of here in a year’s time, and we will have a Labour Government who will actually deliver for Imperial, for Charing Cross, for Hammersmith and for my constituents.”

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