Boris Johnson’s flagship hospital building program and three equalization funds are mired in delays and unlikely to be delivered on time, two highly critical reports from parliamentary watchdogs have found.
In a sobering verdict on the former prime minister’s decision They promise to build 40 hospitals By 2030, the public accounts committee said it had “no confidence” that even the new target of 32 would be met by that date.
The cross-party committee of MPs said “very little has happened from a patients’ perspective” since the program was announced and called on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to urgently examine how new hospital construction programs would bring “tangible outcomes for patients”. He also warned there was a risk that future hospitals would be designed to be too small.
Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “The physical building that is the National Health Service It is literally falling apart before our eyes. There was nothing inevitable about this heartbreaking crisis. “It can be directly attributed to the decision to plunder the budgets reserved for maintenance and investment in favor of daily spending.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals and providers of ambulance, mental health, community care and GP services in England, said the report showed an “urgent need for capital investment in the healthcare service.” health, not least to address the current £10.2bn maintenance backlog, which is critically limiting productivity.”
He added: “Like parts of the NHS’s deteriorating estate, the new hospitals program risks collapsing if capital budgets continue to be plundered for day-to-day spending. As the report points out, the repeated diversion of funds to plug income gaps is what has gotten us into this mess, and the consequence is that our buildings are becoming increasingly unsafe to provide health care and hamper efforts to improve the productivity”.
A second report from the National Audit Office (NAO) found that three funds – the cities fund, the leveling up fund and the shared prosperity fund – were behind schedule in their ambition to complete £10bn in “projects”. ready to start.” He said that by March this year local authorities had only spent £1 billion of the money.
The NAO concluded that the government’s deadlines were unlikely to be met as 50% of construction contracts for projects due in March next year were not signed, rising to 85% of construction contracts for which they expire in March 2025. He said that by March this year only 64 projects had been completed, more than 1,000 were underway and 76 had not started at all.
The NAO identified that one problem was that funds were “overlapping”, but councils had to apply for them in different ways and with different deadlines. He said the reasons for the delays were “multi-faceted, including inflationary pressures, skills shortages and wider construction industry supply challenges”, as well as “detrimental” decision-making by the Department of Levelling, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
The NAO highlighted that the UK’s shared prosperity fund was launched in April last year and that councils had to submit investment plans by August 2022, but the DLUHC did not approve them until December 2022, giving local authorities only three months to spend their 2022-23 allocation. He acknowledged that the department was looking to improve the delivery of its projects and was providing an additional £65m of funding.
The funds were part of Johnson’s push to “level up” the country, with Michael Gove in charge of a department newly renamed to reflect its core mission, although the shared prosperity fund was originally announced during Theresa May’s government to replace part of the lost EU funding.
However, the cities fund was heavily criticized by Labour. for giving money to areas dominated by conservative parliamentariansparticularly in areas where the Conservatives wanted to retain their seats.
Gareth Davies, head of the National Audit Office, said the leveling up department had improved its approach but needed to work alongside councils to “unlock projects that are delayed or have not started and set realistic delivery expectations”.
“It is important that DLUHC shares insights from its assessment work with local decision makers to help them achieve better value for money and reduce regional inequalities by improving the places where people live,” he said.
Zoë Billingham, director of think tank IPPR North, said the report highlighted a “litany of missed deadlines, shifting targets and dysfunction in the way funding has been allocated to councils as part of the government’s flagship programme”.
A DLUHC spokesperson said the figures were out of date, adding that a further £1.5bn had been paid to local authorities in the eight months since March.
“We continue to work closely with local authorities to support the delivery of their vital projects,” the spokesperson said. ““We have committed £13 billion to level up, supporting projects to improve the everyday lives of people across the UK.
“Large regeneration projects take time to deliver, but a number of projects have been completed. This includes the redevelopment of Farnworth Leisure Center in Bolton, delivered as part of a £13.3 million commitment to Bolton Council through the Future High Streets Fund. Thanks also to the city fund, the Ingenium Center in Darlington and a digital technology factory in Norwich have opened their doors.”
DHSC has been contacted for comment.