• Cambridge trusts bidding to finance £220m children’s hospital
  • Raising £100m in donations is likely “a record” for an NHS project after decade-long NHS capital funding cuts
  • CUH also developing plans for the £1bn Addenbrooke’s rebuild

Two NHS trusts have targeted raising £100m from public donations to help finance the construction of a specialist children’s hospital in what is understood to be the biggest health service fundraising operation of its kind.

In an exclusive HSJ interview, Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust’s chief operating officer Nicola Ayton said while it was a large sum the trust and its partners were confident of delivering it.

CUH’s partners for the project include Cambridge and Peterborough FT and the University of Cambridge which is an experienced fund-raiser.

The project was awarded £100m of government funding in December 2018 and mental health and community services provider CPFT will contribute a further £20m from a land sale. But the partners, who are preparing an outline business, have estimated the specialist integrated project will cost around £220m.

The ambitious bid follows significant real terms cuts to the NHS’s capital budget over the last decade. The UK now spends “about half the share of GDP on capital in healthcare compared with similar countries”, the Health Foundation said.

Ms Ayton told HSJ: “We’re looking for major donors, philanthropic donors, and other more general donations. It’s a significant amount of funding and a significant proportion of the funding [but] it’s a challenge but one we feel we can rise to.

“We are working with the University of Cambridge, who have particular expertise in fund raising. Their feasibility review, and experts, tell us this is do-able.”

Factors which could help attract donors include the project being for children, that the East of England was the only region in England without a specialist children’s hospital, and the integration between mental and physical health services, she said.

HSJ contacted several NHS and fundraising experts and it is understood this would represent a record amount raised through donations for an NHS project. Dan Corry, chief executive of think-tank New Philanthropy Capital, told HSJ it was a “bold challenge, perhaps record breaking”.

Mr Corry said: “£100m in donations is an ambitious challenge for building a new hospital. How the campaign is framed will be very important, will this hospital be transformational for the sector or the region?

“Hospitals have received big donations before, but rarely this big. In 2016 the total from large donations (over £1m) for the entire health sector was £97m. On the other hand, higher education received over £600m, so emphasising the university connection may be one way forward.

“It could be an exciting new chapter in how charities and government work together.”

“Addenbrooke’s 3”

CUH is also in the process of developing its outline business case for the re-build of its main Addenbrooke’s site. The project, called “Addenbrooke’s 3”, could cost £1bn with building work scheduled to begin in 2025.

The trust secured public commitments during the election campaign from health and social care secretary Matt Hancock and prime minister Boris Johnson. They said the project will receive between £900m and £1bn of public funding. The trust also wants to raise more funding locally.

CUH was one of the 21 hospital trusts which will receive a share of £100m in seed funding for re-build projects, announced by ministers in September. HSJ understands allocations, yet to be specified, will be confirmed by around March and the money released to trusts in early 2020-21.

Ms Ayton said: “We have not got seed funding yet [but] we are being well supported by NHSE/I regionally and nationally. There’s a real desire to get these hospitals built. I’m really optimistic about the process and the outcomes.

“We have an idea of the overall envelope, the £900m quoted by the secretary of state, and now the onus is on us to really prioritise what we will do with that money and how it relates to our existing estate.

“We know our emergency department is too small, there are other areas of the hospital where the fabric of the building is not [fit for purpose].”

Some of the seed funding will be used to fund a six-month “engagement and co-design” process with staff, stakeholders and the public. The funding will also be used to fund architectural and value for money evaluations.