The government has promised billions of pounds for hospital projects, as the Conservative party conference begins in Manchester.
Under plans drawn up by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the government will invest £13bn into hospitals, including renovations to existing structures and facilities, and the construction of new buildings.
The pledge includes £2.7bn of investment for six hospitals, spread over five years, says the BBC. Remaining projects would be completed over the following five years.
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Boris Johnson said the government was embarking on “the biggest hospital building programme in a generation”.
He told The Sunday Telegraph that spending on the NHS was “absolutely central” to his plan for a “united society and a united country”.
Alongside the £33.9bn of NHS spending that the government has committed to each year until 2023, Johnson claimed it was “the largest sum that has ever been invested in the NHS”.
“We’re launching the biggest hospital building programme in a generation. You will have seen that on the steps of Downing Street I announced 20 new hospital upgrades.
“We’re now following that up with 40 new hospitals we’re going to be doing across the country. It’s the biggest programme of hospital building in a generation.”
Hancock said that funding for six new trusts was already in place, and building work could begin “straight away”.
The six hospital trusts to benefit from the £2.7bn in funding are:
- Whipps Cross Hospital, in Leytonstone, east London
- Epsom and St Helier Trust
- West Hertfordshire Trust
- Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust
- University Hospitals of Leicester Trust
- Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.
Along with building work, £200m will be spent on replacing equipment, including MRI and CT scanners, and breast cancer screening apparatus, says the BBC.
Money will also be spent on developing plans for further hospital projects, alongside a new approach to NHS mental health treatment that includes employment and housing support in addition to psychological help.
An extra £2.3bn a year by 2023-4 would be used to improve mental health care, and £975m of funding has been promised for community mental health provision.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said the government’s plans were “significant” and “particularly good news” for the six hospitals that would receive funding in the near future.
But he added: “It's not just these six hospitals who have crumbling, outdated, infrastructure - community and mental health trusts, ambulance services and other hospitals across the country have equally pressing needs.”
Labour's shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, dismissed the pledge as “spin” and said the government wasn’t building “40 new hospitals”, but “reconfiguring six”.
“New investment is desperately needed and of course we welcome any genuine new money, but patients and demoralised NHS staff are fed up of being taken for fools like this,” he said.
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The new spending was announced as Conservative members arrive in Manchester for the annual party conference, which risks being overshadowed by attempts to remove Johnson from office.
Arriving in the city, the prime minister refused to answer questions about efforts to oust him, and his relationship with businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri, who received thousands of pounds of public funding while Johnson was mayor of London.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that Arcuri told four friends she was having a sexual affair with Johnson while he was mayor.
Johnson has been formally referred for potential investigation into whether he committed the criminal offence of misconduct in public office over his relationship with Arcuri, says The Guardian.
The matter has gone to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), the watchdog that investigates complaints of misconduct connected to police in England and Wales. As mayor of London, Johnson was the head of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, so is answerable to the body.
A senior government source told the Guardian that the prime minister was not warned of the announcement: “This is a politically motivated attack. Due process has not been followed and the timing is overtly political.”
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