A £29bn investment in hospitals, health centres and equipment has played a major role in driving forward improvements in patient care, claims the Department of Health, following a report published today (5 June 2007), which shows that the bricks and mortar of the NHS are far younger than they were 10 years ago. In 1997, 50% of the NHS estate was older than the NHS itself. Today, that figure is 20%.
The report shows that:
- 2,848 GP premises have been refurbished or replaced and 674 one-stop primary care centres have opened. NHS patients are now experiencing shorter waits to see a family doctor.
- More than 1,300 items of the most modern equipment to diagnose and treat cancer have been delivered since April 2000. Now, 99% of patients with suspected cancer are now seen by a specialist within two weeks of GP referral – this was 63% in 1997.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: “Ten years ago, the NHS was in dire need of a facelift. The public told the government then that they wanted to see dramatic improvements in the quality of hospitals, GP surgeries and equipment – and we listened. It’s thanks to this massive investment that we have been able to lift the NHS out of the Victorian era and into the 21st Century.
“But this report is about much more than bricks and mortar. The huge increase in new NHS buildings and state-of-the art equipment means that patients are being treated faster than ever before. This is helping NHS staff to reach the 18-week waiting target by the end of 2008, a fantastic goal to celebrate in the NHS’s 60th anniversary year.
“Patients now have more choice and are increasingly able to access the NHS where they want, when they want it. Around 90 new NHS walk-in centres have opened since 1997, and a mobile MRI service means that patients can be treated quickly and conveniently close to their homes.”
The report makes clear that capital investment in the NHS will continue, with £7bn worth of major hospital projects in the pipeline. From 2007–08, primary care trusts will also have greater flexibility in how they spend capital funds. The amount allocated unconditionally to PCTs, and predominately spent on maintaining buildings and equipment, will increase by almost 30% to £168m.
The full report is available to download from the Department of Health website: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publicati…