The leaked guidance comes as Tory ministers desperately try to prove Boris Johnson’s ’40 new hospitals’ election pledge – with Health Secretary Sajid Javid wrongly calling a cancer centre a ‘new hospital’
A Government spin document has been issued to the NHS ordering trusts to refer to refurbishments or new units as “new hospitals”.
The leaked communications “playbook” lays bare Tory attempts to meet their ridiculed manifesto commitment to open “48 new hospitals by the end of the decade”.
There has been controversy over the description as many of those planned are not full hospital builds and also include already scheduled refurbishments.
They are also not all being funded by new money from Government.
The guidance instructs: “The schemes named in the announcement are not all identical and vary across a number of factors however they do all satisfy the criteria we set of what a new hospital is and so must always be referred to as a new hospital.”
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “ Sajid Javid was caught out dishonestly calling a cancer centre a new hospital last week, now he’s instructing NHS staff to call all refurbished wings and buildings ‘new hospitals’.
“It’s dishonest spin and the Health Secretary shouldn’t be taking patients for fools.
“Ministers need to get on and deliver improved patient care instead of serving up more mistruths, lies and spin.”
The guidance, leaked to the Health Service Journal, says where trusts are talking about the programme, they must parrot the Government’s line about 48 new hospitals.
Its suggested “short description” of the programme is: “The Government has committed to build 40 new hospitals by 2030, backed by an initial £3.7bn. Together with eight existing schemes, this will mean 48 hospitals by the end of the decade, the biggest hospital building programme in a generation.”
Nuffield Trust director of strategy Helen Buckingham said: “Stretching the definition of a ‘new hospital’ to cover all these initiatives is not going to convince the average patient or taxpayer, and might lead to a poor reception for what are actually much needed local improvements.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid was last week ridiculed for describing the Northern Centre for Cancer Care — which is part of the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the first of the 48 schemes to open — as a “new hospital”.
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, which runs it, did not describe it as a hospital.
Several others among the 48 are new units or wings, or major refurbishments of existing sites, while some are community hospital rebuilds.
Many are not yet funded and eight schemes are not yet chosen.
A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have committed to build 48 hospitals by 2030, backed by an initial £3.7 billion.
“Each of the hospital building projects will be new hospitals delivering brand new, state-of-the-art facilities to ensure world-class provision of healthcare for NHS patients and staff by replacing outdated infrastructure.
“It is not uncommon for existing hospital sites to accommodate multiple hospitals and there are numerous hospitals which specialise in one area of care or are co-located – they are all nonetheless hospitals.
“In some cases, that will be whole new hospitals on a new site, and in other cases, a new hospital on an existing site with dedicated facilities for particular conditions, such as cancer.
“We have issued guidance to trusts in the programme to support communications around the plans for their schemes, which is standard practice.”