“This party that has looked after the NHS for most of its history should be the one to rise to the challenge – 48 new hospitals.”

Boris Johnson, Conservative party conference speech

October 6, 2021

Facts

Reporter Dave Ward of the Health Service Journal exposed the existence of a health department publication called the ‘New Hospitals Programme Communications Playbook’. The “playbook” states that “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”.

Only around 15 of these 48 hospital schemes can be classified as ‘new hospitals,’ in the ordinary  and received sense of hospitals that did not previously exist.  Renovations, rebuilds, or new wings were now to be classified as hospitals. 

Verdict 

Again and again in the Johnson premiership the most revealing reporting about government has come from outside of the mainstream media. Thanks to the Health Service Journal we learnt the  details of exactly how Boris Johnson planned to get away with his deceitful plan to build ‘48 new hospitals’. In an Orwellian touch, civil servants have been ordered to change the meaning of the word ‘hospital’. Renovations, rebuilds, or new wings are now classified as hospitals. This is like a used car salesman putting on a splash of paint and a new gearbox, then passing on a second hand car as ‘new’.

Ward’s scoop raises troubling questions about the politicisation of civil service officials. Needless to say, his revelations were largely ignored by mainstream newspapers which have rarely challenged Boris Johnson’s fabrications of hospital building.

 The ‘New Hospitals Programme Communications Playbook’ shows the cynical and deceitful basis for the false claim made frequently by Boris Johnson and his ministers. 

This claim to construct 48 (or sometimes 40 : the numbers cited vary) new hospitals was at the heart of the Johnson general election campaign. It was prominent in the Tory general election manifesto. It has actually been chanted by Cabinet Ministers. Examples of misleading statements by Boris Johnson in reference to building 40 new hospitals can be found herehereherehereherehereherehere and here.

As usual we sent this analysis to Boris Johnson for comment. No response.

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