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In February 2013, the then CEO of West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust Sam Jones set out plans for a “complete redevelopment” of Watford General Hospital, which she acknowledged as an urgent priority.

Fast forward nine years, and Ms Jones has had an impressive career, culminating in a job at the heart of government as Boris Johnson’s adviser on health.

However, residents of Watford are still waiting for their redeveloped hospital.

The Watford scheme is one of the longest running hospital building sagas in the NHS, but there was joy unconfined in 2019 when Matt Hancock said the project would be one of six major construction projects that would start “straight away” and be delivered by 2025.

But alas, that date has been pushed back again, and HSJ can reveal that the same fate has befallen four of the other schemes. Only Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust are still aiming to complete by 2025.

The delays to these projects sum up the NHS’ dire state of getting large capital schemes approved and – more importantly – built to original timescales and costs.

The government’s New Hospitals Programme is trying to change this, but it will take a lot of time. HSJ’s research shows only eight schemes have been confirmed as opening by 2025, of which a mere three are schemes that were part of the original “40 new hospitals” slogan.

Further delays cannot be ruled out, but the public’s patience will grow ever thinner.

New year, new job

As recommended by Baroness Cumberlege’s 2020 ‘First do no harm’ review, the government has started recruiting for the first Patient Safety Commissioner for England.

The application process remains open until 25 January and unusually for a top job in health policy, part-time working is offered on the job specification – something long overdue and that may help to attract candidates who might not normally apply.

The government is searching for someone who can set an example of integrity and ethical leadership and have a “deep interest” in patient experience, as well as being able to challenge the heath system.

It will be crucial for whoever is appointed to be comfortable creating and spearheading policy and influencing ministers, the government and others, as well as gaining the trust of patients and patient safety campaigners: potentially a difficult balancing act.

Also on today

Nicholas Carding’s weekly take on tech The Download looks at a trust’s digital makeover which marks a European first, and in news, how big city ICSs have trailed in booster uptake after the Christmas slowdown.