£1.8 billion NHS funding boost ‘will only scratch the surface’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a £1.8 billion cash injection to ‘help improve patient care’.

Matt Bodell
7 August 2019
NHS Hospital Corridor

The ‘new funding’ will allow a small number of NHS hospitals to complete ‘urgent upgrades’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a £1.8 billion cash injection to ‘help improve patient care’.

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The announcement came during a visit to one of the 20 English hospitals set to share £850 million in ‘new funding’ in order to complete ‘urgent upgrades’.  Earmarked to upgrade outdated facilities and equipment, many hospitals will use the cash to pay for much-needed repairs.

Devolved administrations will receive around; £110 million for Wales, £180 million for Scotland and £60 million for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Johnson said: “With our doctors and nurses working tirelessly day in day out, this treasured institution truly showcases the very best of Britain. That’s why I made it my immediate task to make sure frontline services have the funding they need, to make a real difference to the lives of NHS staff, and above all, of patients.”

Only scratching the surface.

But experts are skeptical. Ben Gershlick, Senior Economist at the Health Foundation, has warned that while the vital funding is needed – it “will only scratch the surface”.

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He said; “Given the scale of underinvestment in NHS buildings, equipment and technology in recent years, this level of funding will only scratch the surface and will not close the gap in health care capital spending between England and comparable countries.

“Even after this additional money, there remains a major risk to the quality of patient care posed by deteriorating facilities, out of date infrastructure and a shortage of equipment”

‘There is a £6bn maintenance backlog in trusts alone, of which over £3bn is ‘high or significant risk’, meaning that it is likely to be causing major disruption to services and impacting significantly on patient care quality and safety.

“Trusts have reported ward conditions so appalling that they impede patient recovery and the NHS has been unable to meet its 62-day target for cancer treatment for the past five years, partly due to a lack of diagnostic equipment and capacity.

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One in nine nursing jobs are unfilled.

The Royal College of Nursing has also warned that while the investment is welcome, yet again the Government has failed to invest in staff.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Unlocking money to spend on new buildings and facilities is a positive step, and will be supported most by nurses who have to work in cramped and outdated conditions.”

“However, after this announcement, nursing staff will look to the Prime Minister with even greater expectation of addressing the workforce crisis. When one in nine nurse jobs in England is unfilled, we expect the Prime Minister to make investment in the supply of nurses a priority, including at least £1bn extra each year to attract a new generation of nurses into education, which will benefit the NHS, social care and public health too.

“The Government needs a detailed strategy for increasing workforce numbers, and an end to the lack of legal accountability that has allowed the current crisis to happen”.

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