NHS receives £300m more to manage winter pressures

14 Nov 14
The Treasury has announced that an extra £300m will be made available to the NHS to ensure that the service is well prepared for the pressures of a cold winter amid ‘unprecedented demand’.

By Richard Johnstone | 14 November 2014

The Treasury has announced that an extra £300m will be made available to the NHS to ensure that the service is well prepared for the pressures of a cold winter amid ‘unprecedented demand’.

NHS staff

The funding, which is in addition to an initial £400m allocation announced earlier this year, will address ‘pressure points’ in the system. These include providing more hospital beds, as well as allowing additional clinical staff to be hired.

Announcing the funding, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS was dealing with a million more visits to A&E each year compared to 2010, as well as an extra 2,000 ambulance journeys a day.

The money means the NHS can better plan for seasonal variation in demand while recognising the need to ensure that services are financially sustainable, he said.

‘Our hardworking doctors and nurses continue to see the vast majority of patients quickly and treat them compassionately.

‘But we know the cold weather can bring added pressure so, as in previous years, we’ve given the NHS extra resources to make sure it is better prepared than ever before, with robust local plans in place from June which address the need to plan for year round demands. We are boosting frontline services and expect the NHS to ensure strong performance is delivered locally.’

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the decision to earmark the additional funding would ensure the health service is well-prepared for the extra pressures of winter.

‘As part of our drive for a stronger economy, the government is now calling on all hospitals and local commissioners to continue to work together to ensure that proper planning includes good financial management, which is crucial to ensuring high-quality patient care,’ he added.

Overall, the funding creates the potential for up to 1,000 extra doctors and 2,000 extra nurses, on a full-time equivalent basis, as well as up to 2,000 other NHS staff. It can also provide up to 2,500 extra beds both in acute hospitals and the community sector, while an estimated £25m could be used to increase access to GPs.

Responding to the announcement NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens warned that although NHS staff go the extra mile to ensure their patients get excellent care, an ageing and growing population meant this winter the NHS would have to be ‘pulling out all the stops’.

However Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association, said a short-term fix would not be enough to stop the NHS ‘lurching from one crisis to another’.

He added: ‘While extra funding is desperately needed, this announcement is merely a sticking plaster. It masks the fact that a funding gap of £30bn is opening up in the NHS, and does not go far enough to address the underlying reasons why the system is under such extreme pressure.

‘Years of tighter funding have left services understaffed, under-resourced and unable to cope. Frontline staff are working as hard as possible but the pressure can be too great, leading to staff shortages in emergency medicine, making a bad situation even worse.

‘Pressure on services has been so great this year that, in addition to a looming winter crisis, many emergency departments have already experienced spring, summer and autumn crises. Many hospitals are already at, and in places over, capacity. At the same time, general practice is struggling to meet unprecedented demand in the face of tighter funding.’

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