Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said an additional £1.8bn will be invested into NHS estates, including money for five hospital projects in the North West.
Across the UK there will be 20 hospitals sharing £850m to improve outdated facilities and equipment, while £1bn has been added to NHS capital spending, funding existing upgrade programmes and additional urgent infrastructure projects.
On entering Downing Street last month Johnson pledged that hospital projects would be a priority. The Government hasn’t revealed where the additional funding is being allocated from.
Initial reactions from the healthcare sector suggest the funding will not be enough to bridge the shortfall which has been in place for years, with fears the cash may be at risk if Johnson presses ahead with plans for a no-deal Brexit. Johnson was a key figure in the campaign to leave the European Union in 2016, gaining popularity under the promise that the £350m sent to the EU each year could be used to back the NHS instead.
Projects in the North West to receive funding are:
- Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust – £72.3m to build an adult mental health inpatient unit in Prestwich
- Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust – £33m to provide a 40-bed low secure unit for people with learning disabilities
- Stockport NHS FT – £30.6m to provide an Emergency Care Campus Development at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, incorporating an Urgent Treatment Centre, GP assessment unit and Planned Investigation Unit
- NHS Wirral CCG – £18m to improve patient flow in Wirral by improving access via the Urgent Treatment Centre
- Tameside & Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust – £16.3m to provide Emergency and urgent care facilities at Tameside General Hospital in Ashton-under-Lyne
At a Lincolnshire hospital visit today, 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 is in addition to £33.9bn the NHS is set to receive every year by 2023/24 through the Long Term Plan agreed last year. According to a Government statement, this should increase the NHS’s capital budget by over 30%.
Health secretary Matt Hancock is also set to announce changes to the NHS pension scheme later this week.
Jonathan Murphy, chief executive of Assura, the listed Warrington-based primary care property investor and developer, said: “With a £6bn backlog of maintenance pressing down on NHS hospital buildings across the country, this morning’s formal announcement of funds to help tackle hospital maintenance and upgrade 20 hospitals will – rightly – be warmly welcomed.
“But if the Government takes the NHS Long Term Plan as the compass to guide this capital investment, we must think far beyond hospitals. Of the 20 schemes announced today, a small number focus on primary care. Yet GP surgery and primary care buildings are the workplaces of hundreds of thousands of NHS staff. They are the gateway to wider NHS services, and are often held up as the locations where most patient contact in the NHS takes place.
“But many of these buildings are unfit for purpose, without the space, layout, design or digital capability needed to deliver primary care to growing patient lists, to embed new technologies for remote consultations and diagnostics, and to expand the range of health services being delivered in the community.
“So today’s funding is an important step, but is only the first of many. In planning the next, we cannot forget the sometimes forgotten infrastructure in primary care which underpins the Long Term Plan – infrastructure which could be truly transformational for the NHS.”