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It is no surprise the programme to build 40 “new hospitals” wants to speed things up.

It is more surprising that they may let some schemes drop core aspects to achieve this.

The New Hospital Programme has long promised benefits from a new central approach to building hospitals. The argument was, while this takes time to set up, it will be worth it in the end.

But at the same time, it has still not released a standard hospital design in full, and schemes are still waiting patiently – in the most part – to get on with projects.

The Department of Health and Social Care has now said it is considering letting a “small number” revert to old approaches to design and contracting to keep up the pace. This should avoid, it hopes, too many large schemes in construction at the same time.

It appears to be an admission that the central approach – whose benefits have been repeatedly emphasised – may be slowing things down too much right now.

If it helps to get the ball rolling quicker, it is likely to be a welcome – albeit perhaps frustrating – reversal.

From new hospitals to new pastures

The head of the ambitious “new hospitals” programme, tasked with delivering 40 new hospital projects by the end of the decade, has announced her decision to step down.

Natalie Forrest, a senior NHS leader and nurse, has led this challenging initiative since its inception in 2021.

It has faced setbacks including delays, escalating costs and programme resets. Most recently, there was a commitment to extend the capital programme beyond 2030.

The Department of Health and Social Care started the search for a new permanent senior responsible officer in late December, but Ms Forrest has chosen not to pursue the position.

In an email to staff, she expressed the difficulty of her decision, emphasising the impending transition of the programme into a new phase after the approval of its business case and funding. She stressed the importance of bringing in fresh perspectives for the years ahead.

Ms Forrest assured a smooth transition to her successor, emphasising her commitment to the team and the programme’s continued success. Her departure underscores the immense challenges inherent in leading such a monumental endeavour.

Also on today

In ImPatient, patient leadership champion David Gilbert looks at mounting opposition to the federated data platform, and we report who Homerton Healthcare Foundation Trust has promoted to chief executive, the culmination of a journey that began when she joined the NHS as an outpatient receptionist 20 years ago.