Johnson told The Daily Telegraph: “We’re launching the biggest hospital building programme in a generation. You will have seen that on the steps of Downing Street I announced 20 new hospital upgrades. We’re now following that up with 40 new hospitals we’re going to be doing across the country.” The pledge was repeated several times at the Conservative Party Conference where Health Secretary Matt Hancock told audiences: “Over the next decade we will build not ten, not twenty, but forty new state of the art hospitals.”
Only six hospitals had been allocated sufficient funding for rebuilding programmes. The Guardian’s health editor Sarah Boseley wrote that “almost all the money earmarked will go to just six NHS trusts, which each have a major hospital badly in need of rebuilding and have had plans waiting for approval.”
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, the membership organisation of NHS trusts, said funding to complete schemes in 34 other hospitals “remains to be allocated.”
Buzzfeed’s Alex Wickham also pointed out on Twitter that the BBC had removed a tweet and story that repeated the government’s claim of building 40 new hospitals.
Full Fact concluded: “It’s correct that the government in this announcement has only allocated funding for six hospitals to receive building work by 2025. Up to 38 other hospitals will receive money to develop plans for upgrades between 2025 and 2030, but not to undertake any building work.”
Johnson’s claim of “40 new hospitals,” repeated by Hancock, was deeply misleading. This is not the only occasion on which the prime minister and the health secretary have made false claims about their management of the NHS.