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Johnson’s farewell claims fact-checked

In his farewell speech, Boris Johnson listed a host of commitments he insisted the government was “delivering”.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson gives his final speech outside 10 Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

As ever with Johnson, as journalist and politician, The rhetoric doesn’t quite match the reality.

– Delivering Brexit

The former prime minister claimed in his farewell speech that he had succeeded in “delivering Brexit”, but the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is still going through Parliament which will allow ministers to effectively tear up parts of the Brexit agreement he signed with Brussels.

The plan has strained relations with Brussels and led to legal action from the European Union in retaliation.

Boris Johnson during a visit to Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland.

– Building 40 hospitals by 2030

The plan to build 40 more hospitals by the end of the decade was in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto and has been repeated many times by Boris Johnson.

When the pledge was first made, it was assumed that it referred to brand new hospitals, but in August 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sent out guidance to NHS trusts on “key media lines” to use when responding to questions about it.

It defined a “new” hospital in three ways; a whole new hospital on a new site or current NHS land, a major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, and a major refurbishment and alteration of all but the building frame or main structure.

An NHS Providers’ survey of the 35 trusts involved in the new hospital programme, published in July, found that half were not confident they had been allocated enough cash to deliver their project.

Of the 26 trusts that responded, 39% said their completion date was behind schedule, and nearly two-thirds of these (62%) said the delays affected their trust’s ability to deliver safe and effective patient care.

According to a Sky News investigation in August, 80% of the 40 new hospitals promised by the Conservatives in 2019 either do not have a completion date or are “unlikely to be finished by the next general election.”

– 50,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament

In late 2019, Boris Johnson pledged to have 50,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament.

The latest NHS Digital workforce figures show there were 356,703 nurses and health visitors working in the NHS in England at the end of May this year.

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This is up about 25,000 from the 331,517 reported in December 2019 when Boris Johnson won his landslide election victory.

But because the figures do not differentiate between nurses and health visitors it is hard to know exactly how many nursing staff have been recruited.

Health experts have also pointed out that even if the Government hits its target of 50,000 more nurses it still may not be enough to plug the gaps in services, with nursing vacancies rising to 46,828 at the end of June.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson receiving his booster jab of the coronavirus vaccine at St Thomas Hospital in London.

– Vaccine rollout

Mr Johnson said in his farewell speech that “70% of the entire population got a dose within six months,” but this is only true for those in the population over 12 years old.

The vaccine rollout began on 8 December 2020 and by 8 June 2021, 40,710,319 people in the UK had received a first dose, according to Government figures.

This is the equivalent of 61% of the entire UK population. By that point 71% of people aged 12 and over had received a first dose.

– Broadband for every home and business

As part of his 2019 manifesto, Boris Johnson had pledged to bring connectivity to “every home and business across the UK” by 2025.

After allocating £5bn of funding behind the scheme, a recent press release from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) quoted the narrower aim of 85%.

But in a report in January, Government spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee published a report which said “despite the DCMS repeated promises, we are apparently little nearer to closing ‘the great digital divide’ developing across the UK nor addressing the social and economic inequality it brings with it.”

– Neighbourhood crime down and more police on the streets

Mr Johnson claimed that during his tenure he has put 13,790 more police on the streets, but the current recruitment drive is replacing officers that were cut by the previous coalition and Conservative governments during austerity.

He also claimed that neighbourhood crime was down 38% in the last three years.

While some crime types did decrease during periods of lockdown due to the pandemic, fraud and computer misuse saw a 37% surge.

According to figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2022 compared to the year ending March 2020 there was no statistically significant change in total crime.

– Building one nuclear energy plant per year

Successive governments have announced ambitions for a series of new nuclear reactors to replace Britain’s ageing fleet, but so far, only Hinkley Point C in Somerset is in construction, and with delays and rising costs, is not due to start generating power until 2027, more than a decade after the project was given the go-ahead in 2016.

The Government has also given the go-ahead, and a promise of funding to support the development, of Sizewell C in Suffolk, with a final investment decision on the project due shortly, but plans for new reactors at other sites are not currently progressing.

– Supplying half of the country’s electricity needs through offshore wind by 2030

With 12.7 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power installed, the industry says 5GW of new turbines would have to be installed in the seas every year between now and 2030 to meet the 50GW target.

In the last 12 months, three major offshore wind farms went fully operational, adding 2.3GW of new capacity onto the system, so the UK will have to double current levels of installation to stay on track.

– Promise to ‘fix’ social care

The Care and Support Alliance CSA, which is made up of more than 60 charities, said reforms announced by Boris Johnson’s Government “will not and cannot” fulfil the promise he made to “fix” social care.

This is because they will not improve the quality or availability of care, and instead are focused on subsidising the amount people pay, it said.

As the country faces a challenging winter, waiting lists for social care and assessments are at record levels, family carers are taking on increased responsibility, with some being forced to give up work so they can look after their loved one, and social care vacancy rates are rising.

Related: Boris Johnson bows out (opens in a new tab)

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