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Boris pledges a £1.8bn cash injection for the NHS

Annual budget will increase 30%

BoJo

There’s nothing like the prospect of a general election to free up funding for the NHS, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson stuck to form by unveiling a £1.8bn pot for capital investments today.

The new money has become available because of the UK’s growing economy, according to the government, and will be spent on “more beds, new cutting-edge equipment and additional wards”.

Of the total, £1bn will go towards tackling a backlog of much-needed upgrade programmes, while £850m is earmarked for new upgrades to outdated facilities and new equipment at 20 hospitals across England, plus construction of a new women and children's hospital in Cornwall.

Over £1bn of this will be spent this year, meaning an annual increase in the NHS’s capital budget of 30%, the government said.

The government insists the new money is in addition to the extra £20bn a year by 2023 announced by former prime minister Theresa May, although Shadow Health Minister John Ashworth says he is sceptical that the new money is actually new, while Nuffield Trust suggests some of the money was in the pipeline anyway.

The £1bn tranche could also be viewed as merely reversing cuts hospital trusts were asked to make this year, according to the King’s Fund.

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted however there was no question that this is anything other than additional money for the NHS.

“Every penny is new,” he told the BBC’s Today programme this morning, and while acknowledging that it is only a part of what is needed for the capital improvement programme said “this is just the start of our Health Infrastructure Plan, with patients set to see and feel the benefits for years to come”.

The money will provide “immediate funding for bigger wards, better mental health units, and state of the art children’s hospitals in areas that need them the most”, Hancock added, saying healthcare is “priority number one” for the new PM.

Independent charity the Health Foundation said however that “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 healthcare capital spending between England and comparable countries”.

The charity’s senior economist Ben Gershlick says there is a £6bn maintenance backlog in trusts alone, of which over £3bn is 'high or significant risk'. One symptom of that is that 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.

Later this week, Hancock will also announce changes to the NHS pension scheme after senior doctors said new rules meant they could not work extra shifts to tackle waiting lists due to punitive taxes if they exceed the limit for pensions contributions.

Hancock also told the BBC this morning there was no appetite among ministers for a general election. However, with Johnson’s majority now winnowed down to one, political commentators think an election may well be on the cards.

His largesse since taking the top job – promising tax cuts across the board and 20,000 new police officers for example – are viewed in some quarters as the new PM starting election campaigning early.

Article by
Phil Taylor

5th August 2019

From: Healthcare

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