BBC Question Time leaders special: Boris Johnson fact checked
Fiona Bruce and the Prime Minister clashed during his Question Time Leaders’ interview over how many “new hospitals” are being built.
BJ: As a result of the decisions that we have, in ten years time, 40 new hospitals will have been built.
FB: It is six, just so we're clear.
BJ: Yes we're starting with six but there are 40 on the program.
FB: At the moment it’s upgrading six existing hospitals-
BJ: No, sorry, no, no, it’s building six new ones immediately, but a program over the next 10 years with seed funding already going in to build 40 new hospitals.
Fiona Bruce was right, and Boris Johnson was wrong to correct her.
The government’s latest announcement was to upgrade six hospitals by 2025, not to build six brand new hospitals. Some of these plans (such as at Whipps Cross in London) involve completely replacing the existing hospital with a new building, but all six are upgrades to existing hospital sites.
You can argue about whether it’s fair to call those “new hospitals”, but in denying Fiona Bruce’s perfectly accurate description of the plan as “upgrading six existing hospitals”, Mr. Johnson got it wrong. The clear implication the viewer would have taken from the exchange is that these are new hospitals where none previously existed.
On the issue of the plan for 40 hospitals, another 21 hospital trusts are being given £100 million in seed funding to prepare a business case for their hospitals—but no money for any actual building work. The plan is for works on these hospitals to take place between 2025 and 2030.
So the 40 new hospitals Mr Johnson referred to includes the six hospital upgrades described above, plus 34 that the government says that seed funding will cover.
The Conservative manifesto hasn’t been published yet, so we don’t know if it will have any more detail on how these extra 34 hospitals will be funded, but given that building work on them is unlikely to happen in the lifetime of the next parliament it wouldn’t be a surprise if it wasn’t.
We’ve written more about these hospitals plans here.
Boris Johnson also said that the Conservatives are putting the “biggest ever cash boost” into the NHS.
He’s presumably referring to the increase in NHS funding for England planned for between 2018/19 and 2023/24. Accounting for inflation, which is how prices change over time, it’s about £20.5 billion.
It’s incorrect to say that’s a record amount of money. For example, between 2004/05 and 2009/10 the real terms increase was higher at £24 billion.