Will Banbury's Horton General Hospital £370m rebuild plan be abandoned? Claims are made that Government ambition for 40 'new hospitals' been branded unaffordable

The future of a plan to 'rebuild' the Horton General Hospital could be in doubt if rumours that the Government's funding plan for hospital improvements is 'unaffordable' are confirmed.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 3:09 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd November 2021, 3:10 pm
The Horton General Hospital which trust bosses want to rebuild to modernise and increase capacity

Health Service Journal (HSJ) published an exclusive report last Thursday that 'serious concern' has been raised about lack of progress to build the 40 'new hospitals' by 2030, as promised by the Government in its New Hospitals Programme. The programme, created to deliver a key manifesto pledge, has been downgraded to a 'red' rating by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) the journal report says.

The HSJ report suggests that earlier this year the rating was 'amber/red' meaning the programme was 'in doubt', while a red rating means it 'appears to be unachievable'.

The Department of Health and Social Care instructed that any rebuild or redevelopment project must be described as a 'new hospital'.

It is understood that, in political circles, the HSJ report is seen as 'speculative' and not based on any official Government announcement.

This was endorsed by a letter from Health Minister Edward Agar to Banbury MP Victoria Prentis on November 12 in which he reiterated the Government commitment 'to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 backed by an initial £3.7 billion'. He said that together with eight existing schemes, it would mean 48 new hospitals would be built by the end of the decade.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUH) revealed in September that it had submitted an Expression of Interest to the Government for a £370 rebuild of the Horton General Hospital site, doubling the size of the operation.

It said it wanted to replace the current 30,700 square metre premises with a 58,000 square metre building that would increase inpatient bed capacity by nearly 60 beds and triple the capacity of A&E.

An OUH spokesman said: "Our expression of interest (EOI) to the Government’s new hospital bid process sets out a vision for flexible and adaptable space to meeting changing requirements with an opportunity for future expansion. This approach will facilitate improved ways of working and enable delivery of integrated working across health and social care with wider public-sector parties.

"It is important to note that the EOI isn’t the final proposal - this follows if we are successful and move through the bid process. We would very much look forward to meeting and discussing the opportunities this flexibility provides as the case develops with all stakeholders and commissioners."

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis said: "“I have always campaigned for better services at the Horton. It has been clear for a very long time now that significant investment is needed to ensure that our hospital is fit for the future and can serve our growing population.

"In September, OUHFT submitted an EOI for the Horton to be considered for a place as one of the next eight new hospitals in the Health Infrastructure Programme. I know that the Trust have put a lot of time and effort into the submission, setting out a realistic and achievable vision for our hospital. The EOI has my full support.

"Many other Trusts have made a submission too in this final round of bids. We are still very early in what will be a two-stage selection process. Just last week I received a letter from the Health Minister Edward Argar which confirmed that the Department is considering the Horton submission carefully. Review will take some time while all the evidence and analysis is considered. It is hoped that a decision for the next round will be made next spring.

"In the meantime, it is important that we do all that we can in the months ahead to unite behind the Trust’s vision, engage with the finer details and show our support for our hospital.”