• East London STP received just £5m of £430m of capital funds requested
  • Bid rejection creates uncertainty for STP’s estates and clinical plans
  • Chiefs claim assessment team did not “fully consider” bids properly

Leaders of a health economy which has been awarded only a fraction of the funds allocated through a new capital regime have claimed national bodies failed to fully consider their bids.

East London Health and Care Partnership (the area’s sustainability and transformation partnership) said it would now experience “inevitable and significant issues”, after being awarded just £0.5m out of the £2.3bn so far allocated nationally.

It also said surplus land on one of its sites had been sold off without any funding being provided for a replacement facility.

The STP submitted nine bids totalling nearly £430m during the Department of Health and Social Care’s capital allocation process in 2017.

The STP’s main bid was for the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, run by Barts Health Trust, for which around £350m was sought.

Three bids worth more than £70m were also submitted for Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, and another three (combined worth £788,000) were submitted for Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust.

But all those bids were rejected, and the only successful bid was for £0.5m to be spent redesigning BHRUT’s urgent care centre at King George’s Hospital in Ilford. However, the trust has not yet completed the process of accessing the money. 

An STP spokesman said: “The disappointment among local partners is compounded by the lack of clarity on the process. The wave four process did not fully consider the circumstances of each individual scheme in the context of the clinical strategy – a driver for the east London estates strategy – nor their system-wide impact.”

He said the rejection created a “degree of uncertainty for our strategic estates plan”, and “raised questions” about the area’s clinical strategy, adding: “We received some high-level feedback via the London Estates Board, but have yet to receive any feedback on specific schemes.

“Ongoing feedback during the development of our strategic estates plan gave no indications of significant issues with our approach.”

Bids were assessed by teams consisting of officials from the DHSC, NHS Improvement and NHS England.

A DHSC spokesman said all the funding rounds were “highly competitive” and “funding was prioritised on the strength of bids received from local NHS team[s]”.

The STP said it is looking at “alternative funding solutions” to address the “inevitable and significant issues” caused by the centre’s snub, but the options available are “limited”. It also highlighted a disposal of surplus land at St George’s Hospital in Hornchurch last year.

This sale netted £43m for NHS Property Services, but no central funding has yet been provided for a replacement facility – which the spokesman described as “vital” to the STP.

“The failure to allocate any capital funding – although continuing to take site disposal receipts centrally – will inevitably make it more challenging to deliver high-quality services to our residents,” the spokesman said.

The DHSC said schemes were evaluated against a set of six core criteria which were “clearly set out as part of the application process”.

These were deliverability, service and demand management, transformation and patient benefit, financial sustainability, value for money, and estates.

  • Article updated at 12.16 on 25 February after BHRUT clarified it had only bid for £0.5m and not yet received the money. 

How one trust successfully bid for funds

Nearly £30m was awarded to Solent Trust, whose two schemes for community hospitals topped the priority list of its STP.

Around £10m will be spent moving services from St James Hospital to St Mary’s Hospital (both in Portsmouth), which will free up surplus land for disposal at the former and better utilise the latter’s estate.

Another £19m will go towards developing a new ward block at Western Community Hospital in Southampton, which will enable certain therapy services to be transferred to the facility from Royal Southampton Hospital.

Mark Young, head of estates at the trust, told HSJ the bids had benefitted from being for projects that were in the pipeline already.

“These projects weren’t born out of funding being made available,” Mr Young said.

“It was a case of ‘we’re doing it anyway’ and we had a lot of information to hand and a very comprehensive business case.”

He said their business cases had to demonstrate the benefits for the whole STP, not just the trust itself.

Asked how the process compared to accessing capital funds in other ways from the centre, Mr Young said having a list of priorities through the STP meant there was more time to draw up business cases and applications.

He added: “My limited experience of applying for funds from the centre is that you don’t get much time to do it. Now that we have a list of priorities it will make it easier to go for funding when it becomes available. But a lack of funds available won’t stop us working on schemes.”

He said it would help trusts if there was more engagement with the centre during the development of business cases for estates schemes, to save the need for questions and clarifications after the business case had been submitted.

Revealed: The winners and losers of government's £2.9bn capital pot