Whipps Cross rebuild ‘highly unlikely’ to be finished by 2030 despite promises

The construction of a new hospital at the site of Whipps Cross in Leytonstone by 2030 is now “highly unlikely” due to “repeated delays,” an NHS trust has said.

A report produced by Barts Health Trust warned the timeline of starting work in 2025 and opening the new hospital by 2030 could no longer be accurate.

A representative from the trust said in the report, published on May 1 “It is too soon to predict, with precision, a set of updated milestone assumptions for the Whipps Cross programme.

“However, further delays now mean that our previous assumptions, of beginning construction on the new hospital in 2025 and completing it before the end of the decade, are now highly unlikely.”

During his time in Number 10, former prime minister Boris Johnson committed to building 40 new hospitals in the UK by 2030.

The National Audit Office warned last July that the government would likely miss its target and only 32 hospitals would be completed by 2030, the Health Service Journal reports.

Delays to the project have been widespread, and the watchdog expressed concerns that the focus on low-cost methods could yield hospitals that are too small for their intended purposes.

The Department for Health and Social Care “remains committed” to the new hospital, a spokesperson said in a statement.

They said: “We remain committed to the delivery of the new hospital for Barts Health NHS Trust at Whipps Cross as part of our New Hospital Programme.

“The New Hospital Programme continues to work closely with the trust on plans for their new hospital aligned to our standardised approach, Hospital 2.0.”

Mary Burnett, a spokesperson for the Action 4 Whipps campaign group, said the delay was a direct result of poor funding.

She said: “The latest delay is a direct result of the failure to properly fund Boris Johnson’s so-called ‘40 new hospitals’.

“The risks are high that, when finally built, Whipps Cross won’t have enough beds or a rebuilt Margaret Centre.

“Last year, the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee – independent, highly respected scrutiny bodies – exposed the funding fiasco, and raised concerns that the hospital will be too small for what we all need.”

Campaigners are concerned that the new design, which has not yet been formalised, will not include an equivalent of the Margaret Centre, a dedicated end-of-life care unit.

At a meeting in March, representatives from Barts Health NHS Trust could not commit to keeping a designated unit available – despite pressure from residents and councillors.

The hospital will continue to provide palliative care, which differs from end-of-life care in its focus on people with ‘life-limiting’ illnesses rather than those who are near death. 

Waltham Forest councillor Richard Sweden said the end-of-life care in the borough was “lacking” and there was “no case” for the Margaret Centre to not continue. 

The construction of a new 500-space multi-storey car park at Whipps Cross is still on track, however, having been formally greenlit in early February. The work is expected to take twelve months and will commence this summer.

During the March meeting, Councillor Beverley Brewer expressed her frustration with how long the redevelopment was taking, saying it was “regrettable” that the new hospital was still at least six years away.

She blamed “overpromising and under-delivering” from the central government, adding the scheme was often referred to by NHS workers as the “No Hospitals Programme”.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter

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