NHS’ extra £20bn a year will go to ‘plugging austerity gaps’

9 Jul 18

Most of the NHS’ new £20bn a year will be spent on filling the financial gaps caused by eight years of austerity, a health group has warned today.

A significant amount the NHS’ £20bn ‘birthday present’ will pay for measures such as cutting delays for operations, increasing bed capacity and maintenance for the NHS estate, NHS Providers said in a report today.

The health organisation, which represents 99% of NHS trusts, found achieving the 18-week target for routine operations would cost £950m annually for three years.

The membership organisation’s report NHS funding settlement: recovering lost ground, said that the new money would be spent on “filling the gaps that have opened up in the health service after almost a decade of austerity”.

The report claimed that to cope with winter pressures like this year’s, 7,825 more beds were needed, costing nearly £900m.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “This report highlights the scale of the challenges the NHS faces in recovering the lost ground that has built up over the longest and deepest financial squeeze in NHS history.

“It is striking how these pressures are being felt right across the system, in hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services.”

The research found that restoring the mental health and community nursing workforce to pre-austerity levels would cost nearly £350m a year for the next three years.

A large portion of the new funding would need to go towards maintenance work on the NHS estate, and NHS Providers estimate the maintenance backlog would cost at least £1.2bn annually for the next three years.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of NHS Confederation, which represents 85% of NHS providers, said: “One of the greatest dangers we now face is unrealistic expectations.

“While everyone is rushing about trying to spend new money, the reality is that we have some really tough decisions ahead. We cannot do it all, and we need to admit that.”

Dickson added that money must be spent on improving care in the community, which would prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

Theresa May announced an extra £20bn annual funding for the NHS in June, ahead of the service’s 70th anniversary.

Critics have suggested that social care must also be supported by a new, long-term funding settlement.

The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

The Conservative’s austerity programme was started in 2010

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