The Department of Health has confirmed the existence of a surprise £300 million fund for capital projects that some trusts had been given just seven working days to apply for and others have still not been told about.
Projects must have a value of at least £5m and be started this year, with the DH asking for submissions by 12 January.
The £300m fund was confirmed after CN sister title Health Service Journal obtained a copy of a letter sent by NHS London to primary care trust clusters, trusts and foundation trusts on 23 December asking for applications.
A DH spokeswoman confirmed health secretary Andrew Lansley had authorised the fund. The total amounts to 6.7 per cent of the DH’s £4.5bn capital budget for 2011-12.
The letter said: “We understand DH is more likely to favour larger value projects. The schemes need to start in 11-12 and finish by the end of 12-13.
“Schemes with greater spend in 11-12 are likely to be looked upon more favourably.”
It added: “Although the Treasury is not keen on bullet payments into PFI schemes, if there is a strong value-for-money business case behind this they can be put into the mix for consideration.”
The letter in London was sent to chief executives, finance directors and deputy finance directors on 23 December.
Built environment consultants welcomed the additional funding but warned it must be carefully prioritised to ensure value for money.
Davis Langdon director and head of healthcare Paul Coomber said: “Whilst the additional capital funding will provide a much needed workload boost to the construction industry the money will need be carefully prioritised to projects that will deliver real value for money rather than just allocated to those that are conveniently ‘spend ready’.
“Panic purchasing invariably delivers the wrong product though so hopefully they have a rigorous enough projects selection process in place to maximise the benefits of this extra investment.”
EC Harris partner in the health sector Conor Ellis said: “£300m represents very little as an overall capital fund. Given the short notice it is hoped that bids, and their evaluation, will deliver value in the context of aiding long term plans for those Trusts.”
According to the letter, sent to London trusts, NHS London anticipates being able to secure £75m for London organisations following the bidding process.
It anticipates confirmation of which bids have been successful from the DH by the end of January.