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June 16, 2023

An exchange was held in the House of Commons over investment in local hospital buildings which saw one MP accuse the government of ‘breaking promises’ on the issue.

Andy Slaughter, the MP for Hammersmith moved a debate this Tuesday (13 June) on New Hospital Programme and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to get more information on the rebuilding and refurbishments plans for the Trust’s three main facilities – Charing Cross, Hammersmith and St Mary’s Hospitals.

Recently the government had announced that work on these buildings was no longer scheduled to be completed by 2030 as previously announced with repairs of Charing Cross and Hammersmith put back and no completion date given for the rebuilding of St. Mary’s in Paddington.

These hospitals already have a substantial backlog of repairs and there have been failures in electricity and sewage systems as well as lifts. These have further added to waiting lists as appointments have had to be cancelled. The bill for essential repairs at the three hospitals is estimated to be £350million, the biggest repair cost for any hospital trust in the country and the price of bringing them all up to acceptable 21st century clinical standards is likely to be between £3-4 billion.

Mr Slaughter began by saying, “This debate is about one thing specifically: the defunding and removal from the 2030 new hospital programme of three major hospitals—Charing Cross, Hammersmith, and St Mary’s—all of which form part of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. They are teaching hospitals, major emergency and trauma hospitals, research hospitals, academic hospitals, tertiary hospitals—hospitals with a huge national and international reputation—but they are also local hospitals for my constituents and those of many other Members.

“In the Secretary of State’s statement on the new hospital programme on 25 May, seven of the schemes that had previously been in the 40 hospitals scheme were removed from that programme with respect to completion by 2030—we must be careful in our words here. I need to deconstruct what has happened since that time, because there has been some misleading presentation of the facts. “

He continued that he had sent several questions to the Secretary of State in advance of the debate which confirmed that work will start on the hospitals within two years as part of a rolling programme in which not all work will be completed by 2030.

Mr Slaughter described this as the key change but added that many questions remained unanswered on the issue including what work would be done on the three sites before 2030 and what part of the government’s new hospitals programme funding had been set aside for these projects. He added that the situation was in limbo at the moment with repeated disinformation from the government on the matter.

Ruth Cadbury MP said that that these ‘broken promises’ from the government would have a huge impact on people across West London who rely on Charing Cross, St Mary’s and Hammersmith Hospitals. She also addressed the impact that the NHS backlog was having on people locally, along with the wider pressures facing NHS staff.

She said, “The sad thing is that I am not even surprised, because this is what we have come to expect from a Conservative Government—things such as the promises made by the now former Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. He said there would be 40 new hospitals—that is a promise he drove into the ditch.

“I expect that the Minister will make a valiant effort to shake the Etch A Sketch and pretend that the last four years did not actually happen, but patients and staff cannot pretend. Every delayed or inadequate repair or rebuild of any NHS buildings impacts on staff and patients. Leaking roofs, failing electrics, flooding sewage systems and structural faults put whole wards out of action. Operations have been cancelled, diagnostic units and pharmacies have suddenly closed, and much more. This all leads to delayed diagnostics, delayed treatment and delayed discharge.”

Nickie Aiken MP, who represents Cities of London and Westminster for the Conservatives said, “Though the timescales have been altered, I appreciate that the full picture is more complex and I know that work continues to complete the majority of the redevelopment as near to the original timescales as possible. I also appreciate the complexities of the programme’s schedule for building works, so I am glad to hear from discussions with Ministers that they are committed to getting the enabling works started as soon as possible.”

Will Quince, The Minister for Health and Secondary Care, categorically denied that there was any defunding of the local NHS trust and said that it had already been informed of a significantly larger indicative allocation for both schemes than was previously given in 2019.

He also denied that any scheme had been removed from the programme but said ‘a small number of schemes’ will now complete beyond 2030.

He continued, “On Charing Cross, I believe that the hon. Gentleman said that the temporary ward or decant facility will not be necessary until the main construction starts on the tower. That is part of the enabling works that have been raised, which can and should be completed well in advance of the main construction, and therefore can be used as extra capacity should there be a gap between the works. It is the first phase of that floor-by-floor work.

“I understand that the main construction itself has not been postponed to start after 2030. We have been clear that, as part of the rolling programme, we may move schemes forward and backward.”

He added that the reason the local hospital schemes completion had been put back to after 2030 was based on their readiness to progress but this could change if a way is found to accelerate implementation.

He explained that at Charing Cross work is under way to explore practical options for a mix of new builds and refurbishment that will be phased across the site. It has been recognised that the 14-floor tower will need to be refurbished rather than rebuilt and funding is available for early enabling works.

Plans for that Hammersmith Hospital are also at an early stage of development and will require a phased approach due to space constraints.

On the issue of completion dates he said, “The timelines are at an early stage. As a result, they are fluid, but I know that Lord Markham, the Minister in the Lords, will keep him updated on progress as work is undertaken with the trust to develop its proposals.”

Mr Slaughter responded by saying, “He will not be surprised to hear that my constituents will not hear “early stage” and “fluidity” as comforting words. They had schemes for the completion of these major rebuilds of their hospitals by 2030 and assured funding. That is what we do not have, and however we dress it up, we are waiting in hospitals that are not fit for purpose. It is an insult not just to my constituents and patients but to the incredibly dedicated staff. Some of the best clinical staff in the world work in those hospitals, in frankly terrible conditions. That is why we need concrete answers. I will take up the offer of meeting the Lords Minister, but today’s Minister will not be surprised to hear that my hon. Friends and I will pursue this day by day and line by line until we have those assurances.”

Following the debate Ms Cadbury said, ‘‘It is shocking that the Government have u-turned and refused to give Charing Cross hospital, St Mary’s and Hammersmith the support these hospitals desperately need to be able to serve patients properly. Our NHS estate is in a dire condition because of a decade of under-investment by the Government and it is clear that they have no plan or a strategy to turn it around.

“These delays are not due to NHS staff, who are working tirelessly in increasingly unacceptable conditions, but rather are the result of a decade of incompetence by the Government. That’s why I will continue to campaign to ensure our NHS gets the support it needs and people locally can access treatment and care.’’


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