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NHS Estate

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 13 July 2021

In our manifesto, we committed to building 40 new hospitals by 2030 and to upgrading another 20 hospitals. We are delivering on this commitment, and we now have plans to build 48 new hospitals this decade. We are also delivering improvements across the country to hospital maintenance, eradicating mental health dormitories and improving A&E capacity. Finally, the Department has received a £9.4 billion capital settlement for 2021-22, including the first year of a £5.4 billion multi-year commitment until 2024-25 for new hospitals and hospital upgrades, and £4.2 billion for NHS trusts’ operational capital.

Some 83% of the Airedale hospital in my constituency is built from aerated concrete, with the building containing 50,000 aerated concrete panels in its construction, which is five times more than any other hospital in the UK. This building material is known for its structural deficiencies, so can my hon. Friend assure me that when his Department considers new infrastructure projects, schemes with the highest risk profile, such as the Airedale hospital, will be an absolute priority?

My hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner in this House on behalf of his local hospital at Airedale, going the extra mile, I gather from the Keighley News, by committing to run 100k in 10 weeks to raise funds for, among other things, the Friends of Airedale Hospital—I hope, if he has not finished that yet, it is going well.

To my hon. Friend’s substantive point, he raises an important issue. Airedale has been allocated capital investment in the millions for the 2021-22 financial year from a funding budget that is ring-fenced for RAAC—reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete—plank remediation, but I can reassure him that, as we look to set the criteria for the next eight hospitals, safety considerations are highly likely to be one of the key considerations.

The Minister will be aware that, in March 2018, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust was allocated over £300 million to undertake a radical transformation of its acute hospitals at Shrewsbury and Telford. Since then, the trust’s management have been engaged in finalising the strategic business case, but as a consequence of changes to the Green Book and clinical standards the cost will have increased. Will the Minister commit to meet with Shropshire and Telford MPs once the business case is complete to help to ensure that the project can still be delivered?

NHS E&I and the Department of Health and Social Care wrote to the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust on 19 November last year confirming we remain committed to supporting the scheme. This letter confirmed the allocation remains at £312 million at this time, and of course my right hon. Friend will recall that I committed to approving the request in principle for £6 million of early funding to continue to develop the scheme. It is an important scheme, we want to see it proceed and I am very happy to meet him and fellow Shropshire colleagues.

In my role as chair of the all-party group for axial spondyloarthritis I have heard from many about the importance of hydrotherapy pools in supporting those living with the condition, but there has been a concern that the reopening of these pools following the pandemic has been jeopardised by space within hospitals being allocated to other functions and a general low level of prioritisation. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that we have robust plans in place to reopen as many hydrotherapy pools as possible, and will he consider meeting me to discuss this matter in further detail?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and the all-party group for their work. He raises an important point: the challenges posed by infection control and the impact of the pandemic on the operation of hospitals. That has had an impact in this space, but I entirely recognise the value and importance of hydrotherapy as a treatment for particular conditions and I will be delighted to meet him.

Of course the number of general and acute beds open across the estate impacts on a trust’s ability to get on top of the elective backlog, which now stands at 5.3 million—a record high—with 336,000 waiting over a year and 7,000 waiting over two years for treatment. On appointment, the Secretary of State promised trusts that they would get everything they need to get through the backlog. So how much will trusts get and when will they get it?

It is an important question. The Secretary of State has made it clear that tackling the elective backlog is one of his key priorities in his new role. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have already committed £1 billion to helping to tackle the elective backlog. That, of course, comes on top of the record funding of £33.9 billion to ’23-24 for our NHS, but that commitment remains. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that our NHS can tackle the elective backlog and get those waiting lists down.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, but if it is a priority of the new Secretary of State why on Friday were trusts told that the threshold for accessing that elective recovery funding was increasing, effectively making it harder for a trust to access funding at just the time when hospital admissions for covid are increasing and we have trusts, such as in Leeds and Birmingham, cancelling cancer surgery? Surely we should be giving trusts more resources now, not restricting access to the elective recovery fund.

In terms of the elective recovery fund, we have worked with the NHS to determine the right thresholds and the right premiums for payment for elective activity over and above what we would be expecting in the circumstances. The NHS is doing an amazing job in difficult circumstances, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, with the impact that infection prevention control restrictions have had on the ability of trusts to see the number of people that they normally would. Trusts are taking huge strides to restore services and the ERF is there to help to ensure that they are funded for that activity level so that they can get provision up and above where it needs to be in order to get the waiting lists down.