The Government got a lot of publicity for the announcement about the New Hospital Programme (NHP), including Watford General, last week.

But what did it mean? Maybe not that much.

The key headline was that many of the NHP schemes will be ‘fully funded’. To a normal person, that would mean that the Trusts would know exactly how much money they will be getting. They would also know what buildings they are being allowed to construct.

But Governments with an election in the offing don’t follow the normal rules.

In fact ‘fully funded’ is a misleading term. There is a very long way to go before the funding is secured and a design decided on.

This is what the NHP website says about funding:

All schemes within the New Hospital Programme follow a business case process, including being reviewed and agreed by ministers. Final individual allocations for schemes will only be determined once the Full Business Cases have been reviewed and agreed.

Watford General and the rest have not yet finalised the next stage of their applications – the Outline Business Case. The West Herts Trust have got to adapt their 260-foot tower block design to national standards based mainly on factory-made prefabs. That won’t be easy, especially given the small and steeply-sloping Watford General car park site.

The Full Business Case may be many months off and a lot could happen before the Treasury finally agree the money.

Schemes won’t start main phase construction until 2025 – after the Election.

Watch this space – a lot could happen in the next two years.