What counts as a ‘new hospital’?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 27, 2023, 7:57 AM GMT+0

Just 6% of Britons agree with the government’s definition

In their 2019 election manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to build 40 new hospitals by 2030. However, health secretary Steve Barclay was pressed in an interview in May about whether the government were bring straight with the public about this pledge, given the way they are defining ‘new hospital’.

According to the Department for Health & Social Care’s New Hospital Programme Communications Playbook, a ‘new hospital’ can be defined as:

  1. A whole new hospital site on a new site or current NHS land, either a single service or consolidation of services on a new site;
  2. A major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, provided it contains a whole clinical service, such as maternity or children’s services; or
  3. A major refurbishment and alteration of all but building frame or main structure, delivering a significant extension to useful life which includes major or visible changes to the external structure

A BBC investigation in 2021 found that, of 34 hospital trusts that replied to them, just five said their project came under the first category, 12 the second, and nine the third (others were unable to say).

Now a new YouGov poll finds that just 6% of Britons agree with the government in saying that all three categories count as a ‘new hospital’.

Using a slightly more accessible version of the language used in the official definition, fully 92% of Britons say that “a whole new hospital built from scratch on a site which previously did not contain a hospital” would come under their definition of ‘new hospital’. Only 3% disagree.

Only 14% of Britons consider “adding a major new clinical building or new wing to an existing hospital, containing a whole clinical service such as maternity or children's services” to constitute a new hospital, while 20% say the same of “a complete or major refurbishment of an existing hospital”. As many as 78% and 72% respectively say that these projects would not count as a new hospital.

Conservative voters who backed the party – and its manifesto – in 2019 are the same as the wider population in terms of their definition of a new hospital.

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