Boris Johnson has set out plans for 40 new hospitals – but the health secretary has admitted the funding only allows for six.
Johnson said ahead of Tory party conference the government was embarking on “the biggest hospital building programme in a generation”.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he said spending on the NHS was “absolutely central” to his vision of a “united society and a united country”.
Under the plans drawn up by health secretary Matt Hancock, he said they would be spending £13 billion on what officials described as “new” hospitals – either with entirely new buildings or gutting existing structures to create state-of-the-art facilities.
He said: “We’re launching the biggest hospital building programme in a generation. You will have seen that on the steps of Downing Street I announced 20 new hospital upgrades.
“We’re now following that up with 40 new hospitals we’re going to be doing across the country. It’s the biggest programme of hospital building in a generation.”
But in the short term it will only deliver six new buildings or refurbishments, with Hancock admitting they were yet to find the money for the remaining hospitals.
Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, it was pointed out that just £100 million was pledged for 34 additional hospitals.
He said: “That’s the seed funding. The rest of the money will come in the future. That will also come from taxpayers and will come in the future.”
Asked why they are being announced now, he explained: “It’s really straight forward, the treasury is committed to supporting these projects. The government is giving the go ahead for all 40. We are giving the money immediately to the first six, and for the following 34 we’re having a strategic pipeline.
“It means we’re giving the funding now so we can have the project ready so that we can get it built in the years ahead.”
Speaking to Andrew Marr, the prime minister said: “There is a long-term infrastructure plan for 40 hospitals. There is going to be seed funding for all 40.
“Six are going to start immediately… that is all going ahead and I’m incredibly proud of that – but there are then 34 more that are coming down the track.”