Boris Johnson giving his virtual conference speech

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Boris Johnson said in his virtual conference speech: “This government is pressing on with its plan for 48 hospitals. Count them. That’s eight already under way and then 40 more between now and 2030.”

This is an upgrade of the “40 new hospitals” pledge Mr Johnson made during the election campaign in 2019 – a claim we examined last December.

So, how is the hospital-building plan progressing?

The eight

In a press release announcing £3.7bn funding for the 40 hospitals, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) listed the schemes.

The first four on the list are described as “in build”. Some of them were started before Mr Johnson became prime minister.

We contacted the hospital trusts involved to find out how the projects were going.

Two of them – the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital and the Royal Liverpool – have been beset by problems and delays since the collapse of contractor Carillion.

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The Midland Metropolitan University Hospital was originally due to be completed in 2018 but is now expected to open in 2022. Building costs are set to almost double from the original £350m.

A report by the National Audit Office said the total costs associated with the project were likely to reach £988m, of which £709m would be met by taxpayers.

Building work started on the Royal Liverpool Hospital in 2014 and the hospital was originally scheduled for completion in 2017.

The trust told us that although parts of the hospital opened temporarily earlier this year, they were now closed and construction work was ongoing. The completion date and total cost of the scheme have not yet been finalised, it added.

Construction of the Cumberland Cancer Hospital began in January 2020 and it is expected to finish next year.

And work on the outside of the 3Ts Hospital in Brighton is almost finished, but the trust told us it didn’t have a firm completion date at this stage.

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The next four are said to be “pending final approval”.

At the Greater Manchester Major Trauma Hospital, the trust says government investment has been confirmed and building work on the Acute Receiving Centre will start soon.

The rebuilding of Northgate Hospital in Northumberland is expecting final ministerial and Treasury approval of £54m funding by November. Preparatory work has started on site and it is hoped to have the new building fully operational by March 2024.

The Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust says it is aiming to submit a planning application for its new building this autumn, with an estimated opening date of 2025-26.

Planning for the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre near Loughborough is progressing – £70m of government funding has been earmarked for the building and the target is for the rehabilitation centre to be treating patients in 2024.

We asked the DHSC for a statement on the status of these eight projects and whether they were all under way. It told us that all eight were hospitals that were committed to under previous governments so were already under way when this government made its pledge in 2019 to build 40 new hospitals.

So the prime minister is taking credit for projects begun by his predecessors.

‘Forty more between now and 2030’

A further six hospital trusts have been promised funding and form the first phase of the government’s Health Infrastructure Plan, known as HIP1.

The schemes involved in HIP1 are:

  • A new Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow
  • The rebuilding of Watford General Hospital
  • A new hospital at Whipps Cross University Hospital in north-east London
  • A new hospital for Epsom General Hospital and St Helier Hospital
  • A rebuild at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Glenfield, and new facilities at Leicester General
  • A new hospital at Leeds General Infirmary.

We asked for updates on these projects. Most of them are still in the planning stages but demolition works have started at Leeds General Infirmary. The first patients are expected to be seen in the new hospital in 2026.

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Twenty-one hospital trusts were given a share of £100m in seed funding in September 2019 to develop their proposals.

The government now says those trusts will all be fully funded to deliver 25 new hospital buildings (some trusts are building more than one).

A new hospital at Shotley Bridge in Durham has been added to the list, and the government is inviting bids for a further eight schemes.

Taken together this does add up to 40 but with eight of them yet to be identified.

How much will it cost?

Last year the government pledged £2.7bn funding for six hospitals in HIP1.

With the addition of new projects to the list, it has now increased the funding commitment to £3.7bn but this will be a fraction of the final cost of building 48 new hospitals.

The DHSC has not provided an estimate of final costs, and turned down the BBC’s request for a breakdown of how much individual trusts were receiving from the £3.7bn.

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