INFORMATION leaked on the government’s new hospital programme has raised questions as to whether Basingstoke will be given a new hospital building.

The communications “playbook” for the government’s new hospital programme orders hospital trusts to describe newly built units and major refurbishments of existing NHS buildings as “new hospitals”.

The document leaked to the Health Service Journey (HSJ), titled New Hospital Programme Communications Playbook, sent to NHS trusts this month, said: “The schemes named in the announcement are not all identical and vary across a number of factors. However, they do all satisfy the criteria we set of what a new hospital is, and so must always be referred to as a new hospital.”

The document stated that a definition of a new hospital could include “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 a major refurbishment and alteration of al but building frame or main structure, delivering significant extension to useful life which includes major or visible changes to the external structure.”

It has raised questions over how many of the 48 projects, including Basingstoke, will be completely new hospitals, rather than rebuilds or the construction of new departments on existing sites.

This is particularly relevant for Basingstoke, because one of the two shortlisted locations for a ‘new hospital’ is the current site of Basingstoke hospital, in Aldermaston Road.

The other location is land near to Junction 7 of the M3.

The Conservative Party committed to building 40 new hospitals as part of its manifesto in the 2019 general election.

According to the HSJ, the leaked document states that all press announcements on the new hospital build programme must receive “clearance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)”.

NHS England is also insisting on signing off media responses from NHS trusts to journalists, a controversial policy which was introduced during the pandemic.

A DHSC spokesperson told the HSJ: “We have committed to build 40 hospitals by 2030, backed by an initial £3.7bn. Each of the hospital building projects will be new hospitals delivering brand new, state-of-the-art facilities to ensure world-class provision of healthcare for NHS patients and staff by replacing outdated infrastructure.

“It is not uncommon for existing hospital sites to accommodate multiple hospitals, and there are numerous hospitals which specialise in one area of care or are co-located – they are all nonetheless hospitals. In some cases, that will be whole new hospitals on a new site, and in other cases, a new hospital on an existing site with dedicated facilities for particular conditions, such as cancer.

“We have issued guidance to trusts in the programme to support communications around the plans for their schemes, which is standard practice.”

Earlier this week, health secretary Sajid Javid faced criticism when he described a new cancer centre in Cumbria as a “new hospital”.

As previously reported, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s (HHFT) chief executive, Alex Whitfield, said in April that it is hoped a new hospital will be built for the town by 2028.

However, there has been a delay to a public consultation which was due to begin in January, allowing the public to have their say on the two shortlisted sites.

The trust said that the national new hospitals programme had asked that none of the new hospital programmes go to public consultation until the national programme has determined what the phasing of the new builds should be.

Ms Whitfield later said it was hoped that the public consultation would take place in the early summer, but this has not yet happened.

Details in the July Board of Directors' meeting papers state that the team is set to announce a "revised timeline", however, it is "committed to construction starting 2025/26 and completing between 2028 - 2030".  

HHFT has declined to comment on the leaked document.