Patricia Hewitt’s scheme aims to move 5% of NHS work from general hospitals to more accessible local units

Patricia Hewitt is expected to announce later today that over £700m will be ploughed into new community hospitals.

The health secretary will invite Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to bid for a slice of the cash to build new polyclinics and health centres equipped with top of the range equipment and the latest technology.

Hewitt said that the move towards more community hospitals was part of a larger mission to move around 5% of NHS work from general hospitals to local units that are more accessible and closer to people’s homes.

The money is said to be enough to support more than 50 new community hospitals.

According to the new arrangement, PCTs that have already planned their builds will be able to start construction this year, with others follow suit by 2007.