That is a big ask, particularly as a spending review looms and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has already signalled the “tough choices” ahead. He put the proposals to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, in a letter, but has yet to receive a reply from a minister who has “had other things on his mind” after the furore over his approval of tycoon Richard Desmond’s planning application.
Hyman’s rather less controversial proposals would involve a sizeable rent commitment from the Department for Health but he claims they would produce visible results all over the country, with schemes of around £5m deliverable in two years or less rather than a decade-long HS2-esque wait for results.
Many of the Conservatives’ new northern MPs are interested in the idea, which also fits with Government ambitions of “levelling up” the regions, moving spending away from London and helping the economy recover post-Covid 19 through local construction projects.
He says: “As a general point where you have areas of social deprivation, healthcare demand is greater.
“This would help regional policy quite a lot, because by and large, there’s a requirement for more investment in these areas that have got social deprivation, I guess in some cases in the ‘blue wall’ areas which is why their MPs are interested in talking to us, particularly where they have a slender majority.”
Despite the recent hints from the Treasury over public sector restraint to come, the firm is also betting that the Chancellor is not foolish enough to commit political suicide by squeezing the health service in the aftermath of the outbreak.
“People won’t tolerate that because they can see how under pressure that health service has been and want to carry on investing in health so that we have a robust and resilient system that can not only accommodate spikes and surges, but could also accommodate the next pandemic.”
Hyman’s company is focused in the UK and Ireland although a potential move into northern European markets is under consideration.
But he’s also grown the business through acquisition, most recently last year through his £392m purchase of smaller rival MedicX, and drops a hint that his wheeler-dealing may not be over yet.