£3bn NHS funding announced to tackle new Covid-19 spike

17 Jul 20

The government has announced £3bn of extra funding for the NHS in England to deal with an upcoming “perfect storm” that threatens to tip the health service over capacity.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the government anticipates challenges to the coronavirus response as localised outbreaks spring up and many more people experience coronavirus symptoms related to seasonal illnesses.

During a speech in which he also detailed further relaxations in lockdown measures, Johnson said money for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow, as part of plans to help the health service deal with a potential spike in cases,

“[The funding] will allow the NHS to continue to use the extra hospital capacity acquired from the independent sector, and also to maintain the Nightingale hospitals until the end of March,” the prime minister said.

He said the funding would help in “making sure we are ready for winter, and planning for the worst”.

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said the health service faces “one of the most difficult periods in its history”, and welcomed the funding but said it needs to “manage expectations”.

“The NHS faces the prospect of a perfect storm. The virus is alive and present, and that means the productivity of clinical services going forward is hugely impaired; some estimate they will only be able to operate at 65% of normal capacity,” he said.

“The service has been turned upside-down in successful efforts to cope with the first wave. It has barely begun to start to recover from that trauma and it must do so with one hand effectively tied behind its back, with social distancing and PPE affecting every clinical intervention.”

Dickson said resurgent Covid-19 would combine with the “inevitable” increase in demand for services that winter brings could stretch the NHS beyond capacity.

“Even with extra funding we need to manage expectations,” he warned.

“The NHS will prepare, it will respond and it will flex but it cannot perform miracles.”

Local Government Association chairman James Jamieson also welcomed the funding but urged central government to do more to protect the adult social care system against a second wave.

“If this awful pandemic has proved one thing it is that there cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable adult social care system,” he said.

“You cannot protect one and not the other.”

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