Hospital Dr News

Experts question significance of ‘new’ cash injection for the NHS

The new Prime Minister has promised a £1.8bn cash injection for the NHS this year to improve and maintain existing buildings.

Boris Johnson has given the green light to 20 new building and infrastructure projects in the NHS in England.

It will bring spending to £7bn during 2019-20.

Johnson previously said he was “determined to deliver” on the promises of the 2016 EU referendum, after criticism of the Vote Leave campaign’s claim that £350m a week was being sent to the EU and could be spent on the NHS instead.

Richard Murray, chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “The new funding announced today is a welcome first step, but a longer term investment programme is needed to tackle the £6bn NHS maintenance backlog, upgrade GP surgeries that are no longer fit-for-purpose, and modernise the NHS so it can take advantage of new technology.

“As well as shoring up buildings, urgent action is needed to shore up the NHS workforce. Severe staff shortages are the biggest challenge facing the health service, with nearly 100,000 vacancies in NHS trusts. In addition to pensions reform, solving the workforce crisis will require a raft of measures, including financial incentives to attract more nurses, and ramped up international recruitment to plug rota gaps today.”

But doubts have been raised over whether the money really is new.

Last year’s Budget said capital funding would rise from £5.9bn in 2018-19 to £6.7bn in the new financial year.

But that was subsequently reduced. By the time Johnson became PM, the plan was to spend £5.9bn again. After Monday’s announcement that now increases to £7bn.

President of the Royal College of Physicians Professor Andrew Goddard said: “While 20 more hospitals may seem a significant investment, it is unfortunately a drop in the ocean. Research by the Health Foundation estimates it would take an extra £3.5bn a year to bring capital spending on the health service in England up to the OECD average.

“The announcement is certainly a small step in the right direction, but it’s a far cry from the great leap it will take to save our health service.”

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