NHS Providers responds to allocation of £300m to upgrade A&E facilities ahead of winter

11 August 2020

Responding to the prime minister confirming funding to prepare the NHS for winter, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said:

“We welcome the detailed, trust by trust, allocation of £300m by the government to upgrade A&E facilities ahead of winter, which had previously been announced as part of an extra £1.5bn capital for the NHS in 2020/21 in a prime ministerial speech on 30 June.

“The NHS potentially faces a major challenge this winter if a second surge in COVID infections combines with winter flu, usual winter pressures and the backlog of care that has built up as a result of COVID-19. Trusts are therefore doing all they can to prepare in advance.

“This injection of cash will mean that acute hospitals can expand emergency department capacity to help ensure appropriate social distancing and infection control, enabling patients to feel more confident when accessing emergency care. Keeping staff, patients and visitors safe is the top priority for trust leaders.

“Trust leaders are grateful for the extra financial support they have received over the first phase of COVID and also recognise the need for the government to, once again, start making choices on how to allocate public finances. But they are disappointed that the NHS has not received the extra revenue it asked for to expand hospital beds and extend crisis community care this winter. As we clearly saw last winter, the NHS doesn’t have enough hospital beds or community service capacity to treat the rising number of patients that need treatment. Mental health trusts are also now starting to see the widely predicted rise in COVID-19 demand but are currently unable to afford the expansion in capacity required.

“Today’s announcement also mainly concentrates on the needs of acute trusts. We need to recognise the work that mental health, community and ambulance sectors do to keep people safe over winter. The government had previously announced that capital funding will be made available to replace mental health dormitory wards, and we look forward to a similar announcement of how that capital will be allocated.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need to update and modernise the NHS estate to provide clean and safe environments. Looking ahead, the comprehensive spending review must properly invest in our NHS, as the backlog maintenance bill currently stands at £6.5bn. Trusts need a multi-year capital budget to plan for the future, and the review must also address long-overlooked issues including education, training and public health. We will also need an important debate about what extra permanent capacity the NHS needs over the next few years to keep pace with rising demand, treat COVID-19 patients and catch up with the ground lost over the last few months.”

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