• Matt Hancock acknowledges flaws in current “stop-start” allocation of NHS capital funding
  • Promises “one capital sign-off nationally” through single committee

Matt Hancock has pledged that the national sign-off process for NHS capital projects will be “spectacularly more straightforward”.

The health and social care secretary told the NHS Providers conference in Manchester on Wednesday that the new regime for capital funding will offer multiyear, indicative funding envelopes, pledging it would be less “stop-start” than currently.

He said: “There will be one capital sign-off nationally, a capital committee including [NHS England and Improvement] and the department.

“I want the national sign-off to be spectacularly more straightforward… I have heard you loud and clear when you say the bureaucracy around sign-offs needs to be radically simplified and it will.

“The system needs to be fair for everyone, for [both] NHS trusts and foundation trusts. We want to make sure capital better flows to where it is most urgently needed, while still rewarding trusts for strong financial performance and preserving the autonomy trusts have.”

HSJ recently revealed just a handful of capital schemes allocated national funding since 2017 have so far received finance, with many local leaders criticising the complexity and delays of the approval processes.

He also said providers would receive more support in developing business cases, and there would be improved forecasting and more budget transparency. Although providers will remain responsible for capital plans, he warned they would have to “work more collaboratively” within their own integrated care systems.

It comes after the government announced a major programme of hospital rebuilds, including six large projects by 2025.

Asked about social care, and whether new measures would be outlined in the forthcoming Queen’s speech, Mr Hancock said he could not comment on the content of the speech, but added: “We’re not actually now looking at a green paper with lots of options. The prime minister is very keen to bring a solution rather than a set of options.

“It is best done on a cross party basis because these things have an effect for a long period of time…. He’s taking a very personal interest in it and I’m a pretty cheerful person.”

He also said he was “up for removing as many barriers as I can” between the public health and social care commissioning responsibilities between the NHS and local authorities.

Mr Hancock also spoke about potential NHS legislation based on proposals from NHSE/I last month, which could be included in a government Queen’s Speech next week, and which he referred to as “the Long-Term Plan Bill”.

He said: “We want any legislative changes to have widespread support, and to ensure they help speed up delivery of the plan.

“At their heart, the proposals, which I’m considering carefully, will empower you to work collaboratively with other providers and commissioners, so you can reduce bureaucracy and procurement costs, and so we can improve care and get the best possible return for taxpayers.”