The government has vowed that its much-vaunted procurement route, Procure 21, is safe, despite the imminent demise of NHS Estates. In a letter seen by the AJ, junior minister Lord Warner said the Department of Health was committed to maintaining and expanding the programme.
The statement will come as a major relief to many specialist healthcare architects who have invested heavily in ensuring their offices and work are compatible with the system.
Up to this point, the future of various arms of NHS Estates - which is still in its final death throes - has been entirely unclear.
The new ministerial commitment also flies in the face of recent concerns over cashflow problems being suffered by firms working heavily within the Procure 21 structure.
'I am fully aware that the programme is being embraced across the NHS and is delivering good-quality, value-for-money health facilities that are being delivered on time and within budget, ' Warner said in a letter to Alan Kennedy of the Construction Manufacturers Partnering Association and construction minister Nigel Griffiths.
'I firmly support the Procure 21 programme and, following the abolition of NHS Estates, will ensure that it is placed where it can continue to be most effectively delivered.
'Officials in this department's commercial directorate are reviewing this at present and will make recommendations as to where responsibility for the programme should be located. I should like to reassure you that we recognise the value of the programme and that we are taking steps to ensure that the many benefits and significant potential are not lost in the review process, ' he added.
Warner - a long-term supporter of Procure 21 - said he was delighted that the government had finally promised to ensure the procurement method would continue.
'This is very much early days - Procure 21 is still getting up and running, ' he said after receiving the letter. 'We are very keen to see it rolled out to other areas so it's great news that it's being retained.
We really weren't sure what was happening to Procure 21 because it's been so unclear what's been happening to NHS Estates, ' he added.