Election Campaign Begins with Charing Cross Hospital Row

Claims of floor-by-floor refurbishment disputed by Labour's Ben Coleman

Ben Coleman (left) and Greg Hands (right) are contesting the Chelsea and Fulham seat

May 31, 2024

A war of words has broken out between Labour and the Conservatives over a Tory MP’s claims funding has been secured to refurbish Charing Cross Hospital

Greg Hands, the Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, has stated in leaflets that ‘millions’ have been secured to refurbish Charing Cross Hospital ‘floor-by-floor’.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate, Ben Coleman, who is also Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Deputy Leader, has however described the claims as a ‘fabrication’.

He points to a letter from the Chief Executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust from late March, which details that £13 million has been received to-date to support the major redevelopment schemes at Charing Cross Hospital, St Mary’s and Hammersmith.

It adds that, of the £151.4m requested for ‘enabling works’ between November 2022 and October 2023 across the three sites, the Trust has so far received £2.9m.

A spokesperson for the Trust confirmed the figures to be correct, though clarified there was no expectation as to when the full requested sum for enabling works, which include the likes of site surveys and feasibility studies, would be delivered.

In leaflets distributed as recently as this month, and seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Mr Hands claimed ‘millions’ have been secured to refurbish Charing Cross Hospital ‘floor-by-floor’.

“We’ve got the funding, and I’m working closely with the development team to get work started as soon as possible,” he wrote. He has since made similar claims on X, reiterating he is committed to the hospital works.

Charing Cross Hospital was set to be fully refurbished by 2030 under the New Hospital Programme (NHP), a commitment in the Conservative’s 2019 election manifesto to build 40 new hospitals across England by the end of this decade.

Former Health Secretary Steve Barclay however last year pushed back the date for several sites including Charing Cross, with more urgent developments to be prioritised instead.

According to the letter sent to Cllr Coleman by Professor Tim Orchard, Chief Executive at Imperial, in addition to the Trust’s annual capital budget, it had received a total of £59.8m for improvements across all of its sites between 2020/21 and 2023/24. A refurbishment and expansion of the endoscopy suite at Charing Cross Hospital was among the beneficiaries.

The Trust has also received £13m to support its three redevelopment schemes as part of the NHP.

A campaign leaflet from Greg Hands focuses on Charing Cross Hospital
A campaign leaflet from Greg Hands focuses on Charing Cross Hospital

The letter continues to note that a ‘strategic outline case’ for the full refurbishment and partial new build of Charing Cross is expected to be submitted shortly. It then adds: “In addition, we submitted/re-submitted requests for £151.4m of funding for enabling works between November 2022 and October 2023. From these requests, £2.9m has been awarded to date, to commence survey works on all sites.”

In a video posted to X, Cllr Coleman said the letter from Professor Orchard “proves there is no timetable, there is no agreed funding for the essential floor-by-floor refurbishment that staff and patients and families desperately need”.

Mr Hands did not respond directly to requests to clarify his assertion that funding for a ‘floor-by-floor’ refurbishment has been secured. He, however, said Labour’s plans to assess all capital programmes if they are elected on 4 July, included in the party’s mission document ‘Build an NHS Fit for the Future’, would put the whole redevelopment ‘at risk’.

Mr Hands, “This means a pause and possible stop to everything that is currently in progress.”

A Labour source described Mr Hands’ claim as ‘utter tosh’, saying, “You can’t pause a project which has no funding and no timetable.”

Cllr Coleman told the LDRS, “It’s a matter of public record that the government has dropped its pledge to refurbish Charing Cross Hospital by 2030. The hospital head has confirmed to me personally they haven’t got the funding they need.

“To suggest otherwise is pure fabrication by Mr Hands. Perhaps he could tell doctors, nurses and patients precisely how many millions he has secured.”

According to data compiled by the BBC earlier this year, Imperial College Healthcare Trust had the largest high-risk repair backlog in England.

This sat at £393m for 2022/23, about 20 per cent of the national total, with £25m spent annually on the highest-risk issues.

Ben Lynch – Local Democracy Reporter