Good news for the health sector?

As our new Prime Minister signals the NHS as a priority area, Anastasia Chrysafi looks at what this might mean for construction…

I am sure we are all a bit fed up talking about Brexit. Especially as it is taking attention away from the day-to-day running of our economy, with funding requests for infrastructure competing for attention amid Brexit priorities.

That’s why it was positive our new Prime Minister moved away from the Brexit narrative recently to talk about his plans for the NHS. He followed up his maiden speech promising support for the NHS by committing an extra £1.8bn on NHS infrastructure and equipment. This includes a list of 20 hospital projects to benefit from a £850m upgrade programme.

This focus on “ensuring the money for the NHS really does get the frontline” and “we will fix the crisis for social care once and for all with a plan we have prepared” follows a growing clamour for increased capital spending. The money, which is in addition to the long-term spending increase for the NHS announced last year, worth an extra £20bn by 2023, will lead to the NHS’s capital budget rising by 30% this year.

What that means for construction

The announcement concurs with my recent conversation with government sources who said “hospital upgrades” would be an early focus for Mr Johnson as Prime Minister. The extension and refurbishment of many of our older and ‘not fit for purpose’ aging hospitals is an area where much can be done to improve patient experience.

Construction of health facilities is one of the biggest sectors for our industry, and Willmott Dixon in particular.

Our skills are vital to making political promises a reality and improving the services used by millions of people.

For example, we have been advising a major health trust on its £580m new-build acute hospital. It sits in second place of a long list of Trusts’ requests for funding from the Department of Health. The recent announcement should speed that up and unlock funding for two or three of the buildings that will make a huge difference to the patient experience.

The role of a pre-designed solution

Our industry is also being clever in meeting the ‘more for less’ agenda required by public projects. Take the role of pre-designed buildings that cut typically 30-50% in capital costs and accelerate delivery. An example is Cura, our pre-designed community health hub, that specifically aims at tackling the current problem of insufficient GP surgeries and associated primary care out-patient services by providing an ‘off the shelf’ fast and economic solution.

Time of the essence and frameworks such as the Scape National Construction framework and Procurement Hub enable a quick procurement route, so we are ready to put into practice Boris’ proposals.

With £850m of new funding already sanctioned for hospital upgrades across the first 20 hospitals it seems to be good news. Keep it up Boris the NHS needs you!