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banner Monday, 18 February, 2002, 10:47 GMT
Building up the NHS
Not everything can be put right overnight - the decades of neglect make that impossible. But over the next few years the NHS will start to look and feel like a different place.

Many of the hospitals and much of the equipment used by the NHS are antiquated - and massive investment needed to replace them.

Government targets:

  • 2,100 extra NHS acute hospital beds by 2004
  • 5,000 extra intermediate care beds - and 1,700 extra intermediate care places
  • 30% increase in adult critical care beds over three years from July 2000

By January 2001, 714 general and acute beds out of 2,100 had been provided, and 597 critical care beds - an increase of 25%.

A total of 2,400 extra intermediate care beds should be available by March 2002, says the government.

The biggest ever hospital building programme in the history of the NHS is already underway

Government target: A total of 100 new hospital schemes between 2000 and 2010.

The latest plans involve 38 new major hospitals, more than half due to be open by 2004 - 10 have already opened.

There will also be 31 new medium-sized hospital developments, 27 of which are to be open by 2004. Four of these are already open.

Many are being planned using the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) programme, which involves attracting private finance to help with construction costs.

Some analysts still believe that this gives poor value to the NHS as the money has to be repayed over a long period.

The government insists this is the only way to get much-needed hospitals built quickly.

Government target: 20 diagnostic and treatment centres developed by 2004.

These centres, now called "day surgery centres", would be operational in three to four years, says the Department of Health.

They will allow patients to have minor problems diagnosed and corrected by an operation on the same day - freeing up space in main hospital operating theatres for more serious operations.

We will make real progress by investing more than 300m in equipment to improve cancer, renal and heart disease services by 2004.

Government target: 50 new MRI scanners, 200 new CT scanners and 45 linear accelerator radiotherapy machines by 2004.

So far, 21 MRI scanners, 52 new or replacement CT scanners, and 22 new or replacement linear accelerators are in place.

Government target: 3,000 replaced or modernised by 2004 - plus 500 new one-stop primary care centres involving GPs, pharmacists, opticians and health visitors.

So far, 797 surgeries have been modernised, and 68 primary care centres opened, with 126 open by March 2002.

A nationwide clean-up campaign throughout the NHS starting immediately. Every hospital will have an unannounced inspection of its cleanliness, by a specialist inspection team within the next six months.

Cleanliness was one of the factors assessed as part of the NHS "traffic lights" system published in September 2001.

Virtually all had the "highest" or "satisfactory" standards - but several failed the test and were awarded a "red" rating.

They were assessed again as their earlier rating was published, and all of the worst hospitals were found to have improved sufficiently to lose their red status.

However, some patient groups remain unconvinced by the assertion that cleanliness is satisfactory at every single major NHS hospital trust.

The NHS provides over 300m meals each year at a cost 500m. The food is variable in quality, it isnot provided in a way which is sufficiently responsive to patient, and too much of it is wasted as a result.

Government target: By 2001 there will be a 24-hour NHS catering service with a new NHS menu, designed by leading chefs. This will be a minimum standard for all hospitals

This deadline has been missed by the programme - the latest figures suggest that only two in five hospitals have adopted the new menus.

A team of chefs, coordinated by celebrity Loyd Grossman, has developed 94 dishes for use by the NHS.

However, many hospitals complained that some dishes were not suitable for hospital catering facilities - and that patients did not like others.

The NHS will have the most up-to-date information technology systems to deliver services faster and more conveniently for patients.

Government target: All GP practices will be connected to NHSnet by March 2002, giving patients improved diagnosis, information and referral

NHSnet is the computer network which in theory will connect GP surgeries to hospitals.

The government says that 95% of GP surgeries are hooked up already - although some GP computing experts say that the final 5% could prove troublesome by March.

Access to electronic personal medical records for patients by 2004 - by then 75% of hospitals and 50% of primary and community trusts will have implemented electronic patient record systems.

There are serious doubts about whether this is achievable.

January's report of the Modernisation Agency said that delays in releasing funding, the current computer infrastructure, and a lack of IT staff were all contributory to the problem.

Government target: Bedside televisions and telephones available in every major hospital by 2004

The government believes that all major hospitals should be in a position to provide this service to patients by 2003.