The government announced in the 2017 budget on 22 November that the NHS would receive an additional £335m this year to help it through the winter. This extra money is welcome but has come very late to be used to maximum effect.
We highlighted at the beginning of summer that there were significant risks facing the NHS this winter, and that unless additional funding was put in, the health service would struggle to cope. We warned again in September that the window for investment in the NHS to ensure patient safety this winter was closing. Although we welcome the additional funding in the budget, its impact will be limited because it has come so late.
Trusts tell us that the funding could be used in a number of ways, but this will need to be followed closely over winter:
- purchasing care home places/social care, in order to get patients out of hospital in to more appropriate settings more quickly
- getting the community provision in place to help prevent admissions and to ensure that patients can be discharged safely
- some is likely to be spent on agency staff for escalation wards/community provision.
The additional funding in the 2017 budget for winter planning is welcome but its impact will be limited because it has come so late.