Government plans to build and refurbish 40 hospitals in England could be delayed due to new analysis suggesting the Department of Health and Social Care’s capital expenditure budget faces a cut in real terms of 700 million pounds next year, according to the Liberal Democrats.
With some hospitals in desperate need of repairs, the Health Secretary twice refused to say on Sunday that the NHS was working properly and instead admitted it was under “severe pressure”.
Figures published in the Autumn Statement show that £12billion has been allocated to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for its capital budget in 2022-23, which is used for research and the development as well as for long-term investment in the construction and maintenance of NHS buildings, facilities and equipment. However, £11.7 billion has been pledged for the following year.
Using the Office for Budget Responsibility’s ‘GDP deflator’, which measures expected changes in inflation over the next few years, the Lib Dems have calculated there could be a drop in real terms in the US budget. investment of £700 million in 2023-24.
Daisy Cooper, the party’s health spokeswoman, said it would potentially slow the rate at which hospitals are built or refurbished, heightening fears revealed by NHS bosses over the summer that the scheme was “moving forward at a freezing pace.
She said the Tories “seem ready to cut the funding needed right now for their key promise of 40 new hospitals by 2030.” She added: “Hospitals across our country are in dire need of repairs: there are too many horror stories of leaky roofs, crowded hallways and blisteringly hot intensive care rooms.”
The government has insisted it will meet its timetable for building and renovating the hospital by 2030, hailing it as “the biggest hospital building programme” that would ensure “a stronger future for the NHS”.
A DHSC spokesperson added: “We are taking steps to accelerate the construction of hospital sites, including spending time developing designs that can be shared between projects, preparing the construction industry for the work and building hospitals simultaneously.”
It came after Health Secretary Steve Barclay insisted the Government had not backed down from its promise to ‘fix social care’ as cost cap measures had been pushed back to October 2025.
He said it had been a difficult decision to delay plans announced by Boris Johnson for two years to increase the amount of assets a person can have before getting public funding for social care from £23,250 to £100. £000, as well as capping lifetime care costs at £86,000.
An estimated 540,000 people in England are waiting for social care, financial assessment or examination.
Barclay stressed there was an “immediate problem” with hospitals, given the backlog of operations and increasing wait times for ambulances.
He blamed the delay in welfare reforms on the pandemic, saying the number of people waiting more than a year for an operation was just 1,300 before Covid and has now risen to 400,000. reforms allows us to address the real challenges we see in our A&E departments and in our ambulance services,” he said.
Asked twice about how well the health service is running, Barclay did not say yes. Instead, he said the NHS was ‘under great pressure’ and that despite ‘very real challenges’ in crafting Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement, the NHS would get £3.3 billion. extra pounds over each of the next two years while £4.7bn would go into welfare.
Explaining why he wanted to reduce the number of NHS targets, Barclay told Sky News there was a place for them, but added: “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”
He said officials at the local level were “better able to tailor priorities to their local needs”.
As nurses prepare to strike for the first time, Barclay said his ‘door is open’ and that he had met with the heads of the Royal College of Nurses and Unison this week.
Gary Smith, the general secretary of the GMB union, said he was “incandescent” in the face of assurances from the health secretary. He said Barclay was “deluded and quite dishonest” about productive meetings that could limit strikes.
He called on the government to scrap non-domicile status for around 70,000 super-rich people who live in the UK but pay no tax on their offshore income, and reinstate the cap on bankers’ bonuses to help give more money to the NHS.