Capital funding constraints putting patients at risk, say NHS trust leaders

30 Aug 19

A survey by NHS Providers of 143 trust leaders in England found that 82% think that restrictions on capital funding pose a medium or high risk to patient safety.

A further 92% think that the restricted capital environment is impacting on staff wellbeing and recruitment as issues such as leaking roofs, broken boilers and outdated technology cannot be fixed. 

Capital budgets are set at Spending Reviews and are used to fund long-term investments in NHS buildings, equipment and IT and building maintenance. But these have been falling over the last eight years – according to the Health Foundation think-tank – and have been cut by 21%. 

NHS Providers, a membership organisation for hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services, noted that the UK is falling behind on its capital spending when compared to other countries. 

It highlighted OECD data that showed the UK spends less than 0.3% of GDP on health infrastructure, while Sweden, Australia, France, Denmark, Spain, Germany and Belgium all spend 0.6% or more. 

The survey comes after prime minister Boris Johnson released £1.8bn to be spent on NHS infrastructure. This sparked a row over whether this was new money or not, with health leaders saying it was cash trusts already had. 

NHS Providers said this “can only be considered a first down payment on the NHS’s needs”, and urged the government to set a NHS capital funding settlement in next week’s Spending Round

The NHS’s annual budget is £5.9bn for this year - less than its £6bn backlog maintenance bill, which is growing by 10% every year, NHS Providers said. 

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “We need to rebuild our NHS, and give our doctors and nurses the tools to create the 21st century health services that patients expect and that we can all be proud of. 

“We know the government shares our aim of a properly funded and well-designed system of capital funding, but this support now needs to be translated into urgent action, because the risk to patients is rising every day.” 

The survey was sent to NHS chief executives and chief financial officers in England and received 200 individual responses from 143 unique trusts. 

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

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