Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced an extra £1.8bn in funding for NHS projects, including over £110m for primary care. The investment will fund upgrades for 20 projects in hospitals and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across the country, alongside £1bn for NHS capital spending.
However, some health economists including the Nuffield Trust have cast doubt on whether this was new funding or simply money from savings.
But health secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the money was new.
The 20 hospitals set to be upgraded, at a cost of £850 million, include:
- Luton & Dunstable University Hospital NHS FT – £99.5m for a new block to provide critical and intensive care, as well as a delivery suite and operating theatres.
- University Hospitals Birmingham – £97.1m to provide a new purpose built hospital facility replacing outdated outpatient, treatment and diagnostic accommodation.
- United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust – £21.3m to improve patient flow by developing urgent and emergency care zones in A&E.
- Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust – £99.9m to build a new Women’s and Children’s Hospital in the centre of the Royal Cornwall Hospital site in Truro.
Primary care improvements will include:
- £25.2m to develop primary care services in NHS South Norfolk CCG;
- £17m for Barking, Havering and Redbridge CCGs and North East London NHS Foundation Trust to develop a new health and wellbeing hub in North East London;
- £57.5m primary care investment for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw;
- £18m for NHS Wirral CCG to better “patient flow” by improving access via the urgent treatment centre.
British Medical Association (BMA) chair Dr Nagpaul was pleased that capital funding was increasing but said more money was needed to address a £6bn repairs backlog: “The announcement of 20 hospital upgrades and £1.8bn, including money for capital budgets, is a step forward, providing a vital injection of cash to spend improving hospitals – and we await details from the prime minister on where the money will go. However, it is equally vital that new investment must be directed to address the impoverished state of general practice buildings so that there is increased capacity for GP staff and services, without which the prime minister’s ambition to reduce waiting times will not be achievable.
“To reverse years of underfunding, it is critical for this money to mark the beginning of sustained levels of investment to ensure NHS estates are of the highest standard for delivering the care patients need.
“Yet for too long, capital budgets – meant for investment in premises and facilities – have been diverted to prop up the day-to-day running of the health service.
“This has led to recent warnings about the perilous state of hospital buildings – from crumbling walls and ceilings to serious plumbing problems – with estimates putting the bill for current unfinished maintenance work at £6bn. There is also an urgent requirement for funding for additional hospital capacity to avoid the near constant use of emergency ‘escalation’ beds which so impair normal hospital productivity."
Ahead of a visit to a Lincolnshire hospital today, Boris Johnson said: "The NHS is always there for us – free at the point of use for everyone in the country.
"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.
"Today I’m delivering on this promise with a £1.8bn cash injection – meaning more beds, new wards, and extra life-saving equipment to ensure patients continue to receive world-class care.
“It’s time to face up to this challenge and make sure the NHS receives the funds it needs, to continue being the best healthcare service in the world."
The £1.8bn funding is in addition to the extra £33.9bn, in cash terms, the NHS is set to receive every year by 2023/24 through the Long Term Plan agreed last year. Over £1bn of this will be spent this year, meaning an annual increase in the NHS’s capital budget of 30%.
The devolved administrations will receive additional Barnett funding in the normal way; indicative allocations are around £110m for Wales, £180m for Scotland and £60m for Northern Ireland.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: "This is a significant start to the much-needed capital investment so that our nurses, doctors and other NHS staff will be able to care for their patients in modern facilities with state of the art equipment.
"The concrete steps being set out this week will mean investment flows directly to frontline services, providing new clinics and wards. As they come on line, as part of our NHS Long Term Plan, patients will benefit from reduced waits for treatment and wider upgrades to the quality of care the health service is able to offer."