‘Whipps will wait’: Work grinds to a halt on new hospital

A Whipps spokesperson said it is currently unclear when building can begin
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Before and after demolition work at Whipps Cross (credit: Barts Health)
Before and after demolition work at Whipps Cross (credit: Barts Health)

Work on the urgently-needed new Whipps Cross Hospital has ground to a halt due to delays in government funding.

Last month, builders finished knocking down the old nurses’ accommodation in a corner of the site. 

The project’s next stage involves building a multi-storey car park, needed to free up land currently used as sprawling ground-level parking.

However, a spokesperson for the Whipps Cross redevelopment team said the government has yet to confirm how much funding the project’s early works will receive, meaning it is unknown when construction will start.

They told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) the team submitted a detailed business case to the government in March and “expect” to start construction “later this year”.

Outline plans for the new hospital campus (credit: Barts Health)

They added: “We continue to work closely with national colleagues on the business case process, funding and timescales.

“With the demolition completed, we are in the best possible position to proceed once we’re given the ‘green light’.”

Boris Johnson’s government approved funding for a new Whipps Cross hospital in October 2020 after pledging to build 40 new hospitals in his 2019 election campaign.

“Outline” planning permission to rebuild the hospital on one fifth of the site and sell the remaining land to housing developers was granted in November last year.

The plan is to complete the new hospital before the older “not fit for purpose” hospital buildings are demolished.

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The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) did not comment on delays to construction, which redevelopment director Alastair Finney described as “extremely frustrating” last November.

A spokesperson for the department told the LDRS funding for early works on hospital sites is being considered on a case-by-case basis.

Whipps Cross is understood to be one of the eight ‘Pathfinder’ hospitals being built as test cases for the wider hospital project, which will involve building to a standardised design.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the national programme for 48 hospitals is “on track” to be delivered by 2030.

This followed a Sunday Times report that No 10, the Treasury and the Department of Health are unable to agree on the final cost.

A spokesperson for Action for Whipps said they have always been concerned that funding for the new hospital was “woefully inadequate”.

They added: “So it comes as no surprise that the Government has decided to de-prioritise the building work at Whipps, and concentrate on some of the other less costly hospital developments.

“We think the delay should be used to undertake a full and proper public consultation on the plans for our new hospital, which Barts has so far refused to do.”

Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for public health, Councillor Naheed Asghar, said: “We and Redbridge Council handed the Government an 11,000 strong petition this March highlighting how important the redevelopment of Whipps Cross hospital is for local residents.

“The current buildings are not fit for purpose – they are old, outdated, and at risk from flooding as the events of last July proved. 

“Since then, nothing has changed to improve the situation at Whipps Cross and as of yet we’ve had no reply from HM Treasury. 

“We urge the Government to honour its promise and deliver the upgraded hospital that people in the borough deserve.”

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