Department of Health creates role of capital spending chief to ensure 100 hospitals are built by 2010.
The department of Health has reorganised itself to ensure that it can meet the government's target of constructing 100 hospitals by 2010.

The redesigned structure will put control of capital spending in the hands of Peter Coates, the civil servant who is now in charge of the department's private finance unit.

In his newly created role as head of capacity planning, Coates will be in charge of co-ordinating all of Britain's healthcare building, regardless of whether projects are funded by the PFI or public money. He will also oversee NHS Estates, the department's design agency.

Coates said: "Taking over the capital team is only part of the move. My responsibilities will include co-ordinating the general building work in the NHS plan, bringing the responsibilities of private and public hospital construction together. Sponsoring NHS Estates will mean agreeing targets with them."

Sources at NHS Estates said the decision to enlarge Coates' remit was the department's response to concerns over the delivery of NHS construction projects.

One source said: "The issue that was coming across was how we could deploy our resources effectively to make sure NHS targets are delivered. The restructuring across the department is looking at how the DoH can best deliver the government agenda."

The restructuring is part of a wider review of the way the government pays for health facilities. The review is being undertaken by Richard Douglas, the department's director of finance. As with its construction element, the aim is to cut the time needed before facilities are available to the public.

My job includes co-ordinating the general building work in the NHS plan

Peter Coates

Coates' contract will last between six and 12 months while this larger review takes place. A permanent structure will then be put in place sometime next year.

The new structure was welcomed by the industry.

Chris Sherwood, managing director of the London office of Nightingale Associates, an architect specialising in the healthcare sector, said: "Anything that provides greater co-ordination and integration of the NHS building programme is a good thing."

A Cabe spokesperson commented: "We hope a more co-ordinated approach will see the delivery of high quality buildings."

Since May 1997 13 major hospital schemes have opened in the UK. Eleven of these were procured using the PFI. A further 15 are being constructed, 13 of which are using money from the private sector.