Boris Johnson’s promised cash for a new Kettering hospital is not there
The £350m pledged to help build a new hospital has not materialised
By Sarah Ward
A Kettering General Hospital boss has confirmed the £350m promised by government for a new hospital is not in place.
At a meeting of North Northamptonshire Council’s scrutiny commission last night KGH’s programme director Stephen Graves said the only concrete funding the hospital had was the £46m awarded in 2019 and the £350m pledged as part of the government’s controversial hospital rebuilding programme is not there.
The news comes after it was reported this week the government’s spending watchdog the National Audit Office is to investigate the election pledge which promised the 40 new ‘Boris’ hospitals within ten years.
It will carry out a “value for money review” later this year and look at the implications of increased costs because of the delay by the government to hand over the promised cash.
Stephen Graves told the meeting: “The only money that is real is £46m”.
He said the £350m was allocated to Kettering General on a spreadsheet and ‘nobody can find where it came from’.
He said hospital senior management was working with a national NHS team to come up with the correct figure needed and a new bid for the necessary cash would be put to the treasury in the autumn spending round.
He also revealed for the first time that the plans for the new build hospital had been scaled back and that instead of the earlier £796m project, the new build plans would cost around £600m as this was what the hospital had now considered it could afford. The outline business case will go before the hospital trust board for approval at the end of this month.
The money given by the treasury will have to be paid back by the hospital and come out of the existing budget with Mr Graves telling the councillors there would be no additional money to cover these pay back costs.
The news was met with concern by some councillors with independent Cllr Jim Hakewill telling the hospital director:
“We really have been led up the garden path and that is not your fault.
“This [the new build] is going to run away with inflation. I just don’t see it coming in my lifetime.”
There have been concerns for two years concerning the funding for the hospital with Kettering’s MP Phililip Hollobone asking questions of the government on numerous occasions about the funding cash.
Last month he and fellow Conservative MPs Wellingborough’s Peter Bone and Corby’s Tom Pursglove met with the Prime Minister to discuss the funding situation.
The hospital dates back to Victorian times and bosses have in the past said that it is no longer fit for purpose. At the meeting Mr Graves said it would cost £189m just to repair the existing buildings.
The hospital was in special measures in 2017 and there have been concerns about many areas, in particular the children’s accident and emergency department which was heavily criticised three years ago by the Care Quality Commission.
In 2019 the hospital was moved out of this category.
Mr Graves told the meeting it was likely if money was given by the treasury that the new build would now start in 2025 at the earliest.
“We will be ready to go but it may well be 2025-26 before we are allowed to go. We are ready and eager.”
The plan is to build the new hospital on the existing Rothwell Road complex and start by building a new block on the site of the existing car park and some of the office buildings. This would likely take two and a half years and then the accident and emergency department would move into the new building, with the current facility knocked down for phase two of the build.
The new hospital will include more beds - to cater for the area’s rapidly growing and ageing population - and a number of units including a short stay paediatric assessment unit, an endoscopy unit and a 20 bed critical care unit.
Asked about the car parking situation at the already overcrowded site Mr Graves said it was being considered to work with a partner to build a new multi story car park before 2025- but this would not involve using NHS money.
Asked why the hospital could not be built on a new greenfield site Mr Graves said to do so would cost in the region of £1.3bn as it would involve having to rebuild some of the more modern units already on the KGH site.
The news of KGH’s broken cash pledge came at the same time as the Johnson government was facing a major crisis last night. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Savid Javid resigned amid the latest scandal surrounding the behaviour of deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.
Yesterday Northampton North MP Michael Ellis, who is paymaster general, was ridiculed in parliament for defending the PM and saying he had forgotten he had been briefed about a 2019 complaint upheld against Pincher.