Progress on the UK’s New Hospital Programme (NHP) has been slower than projected, with only 32 of the promised 40 new hospitals expected to be delivered by 2030.

A report by the country’s independent public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), found that there had been delays and challenges in selecting schemes, hiring skilled staff and developing a standardised hospital design.

The watchdog also said the government had been unable to attain ‘good value for money’ with the NHP, with £1.1bn ($1.44bn) already having been invested in the programme by March this year.

In October 2020, then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an investment of £3.7bn for the construction of 40 new hospitals by 2030.

This plan was initially divided into four cohorts, which was subsequently increased to five.

Eight hospital projects already in progress were not made part of the initial plan in 2020, but were included at a later point.

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In May this year, the government widened the project’s scope to cover key renovations of existing buildings and new buildings at current sites.

This reset is understood to have caused completion delays to some schemes.

According to the NAO’s findings, only 11 of the 32 projects announced in 2020 represent ‘whole new hospitals’.

The regulator also warned that the approach to reach goals at the ‘lowest possible cost’ could cause some facilities to be too small.

NAO head Gareth Davies said: “Delivery so far has been slower than expected, both on individual schemes and in developing the Hospital 2.0 template, which has delayed programme funding decisions.

“There are some important lessons to be drawn for major programmes from the experience of the New Hospital Programme so far.

“These include strengthening the business case process to improve confidence on affordability and delivery dates, and improving transparency for key decisions.”