PM’s extra £1.8bn for NHS ‘risks being a drop in the ocean’

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The prime minister’s £1.8bn cash injection for the NHS “risks being a drop in the ocean”, say experts callling for more funding across the healthcare system.

Boris Johnson announced that £850m of the one-off payment would go to repairing 20 hospitals on Sunday.

But experts have said the sum, while desperately needed, is just a fraction of what is required to fix ailing NHS buildings across the UK and have questioned how “new” the money is.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told Sky News the extra £1.8bn of funding for the NHS is about improving care and not about a general election.
Hancock: NHS cash not about an election

Politicians have also warned that Mr Johnson’s no-deal Brexit stance would jeopardise his spending ability.

The Labour Party has said such a departure from the EU will “put lives at risk”.

Nurses, charities and health think-tanks called for more funding after the prime minister’s announcement.

Mr Johnson said he is “determined to deliver” the promises of the Brexit referendum campaign.

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He announced the sum, equivalent to roughly £3.5m a week, to be paid this year, claiming it was “new money that wasn’t there 10 days ago”.

The prime minister has received continued criticism for his claim that leaving the EU would allow the UK to take back control of £350m a week, with some boosting the NHS.

The claim, made during the EU referendum campaign, was notoriously written on the side of a bus.

:: Hospital staff ‘thrilled’ over £99.5m cash boost

Ben Gershlick, from the Health Foundation charity, said “years of under-investment in the NHS’s infrastructure means the £1.8bn injection risks being little more than a drop in the ocean”.

He also warned NHS facilities are “in major disrepair” in England, with a maintenance backlog of more than £6bn.

The same figure has been cited by other experts.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the Nuffield Trust, said the sum “will only be a fraction of what it would cost to really upgrade 20 hospitals”.

He added: “Nobody should expect shiny new hospitals in their towns any time soon.”

Helen Buckingham, the health think tank’s director of strategy, also told Sky News: “We definitely think there is a bit of clever accounting going on… We think at least £1bn of this £1.8bn is… money that the NHS has already got and is now being allowed to spend.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged his ability to spend the cash was based on the economy’s strength in a Sunday Times article.

Critics have pointed out a no-deal Brexit could hit the country’s finances and jeopardise the NHS.

Vote Leave notoriously claimed "we send the EU £350m a week" on the side of a bus during the EU referendum
Image: Vote Leave notoriously claimed ‘we send the EU £350m a week’ on the side of a bus during the EU referendum

Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not spell out where the NHS money was coming from, only telling Sky News it was coming from taxpayers and “allocated from the Treasury”.

His shadow, Jonathan Ashworth, said leaving the EU without a deal would be “a catastrophe” for the health service, particularly if it occurs by the 31 October deadline and ahead of the winter squeeze.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It will put lives at risk. That is the gamble that Boris Johnson is taking this October, November.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive at the Royal College of Nursing, said the funding would be backed by colleagues “who have to work in cramped and outdated conditions”.

She said: “However, after this announcement, nursing staff will look to the Prime Minister with even greater expectation of addressing the workforce crisis.”

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Dame Donna called for at least an extra £1bn year to attract new nurses into education.

Sally Copley, policy director at the Alzheimer’s Society, said they were “disappointed that social care is once again playing second fiddle”.

She added: “We urge the prime minister to provide an NHS dementia fund to end the injustice people with dementia face today.”

Mr Johnson has threatened a no-deal departure as part of his “do-or-die” commitment to exit the EU by the 31 October deadline.

This is despite the Office for Budget Responsibility, the government’s spending watchdog, warning no-deal would increase borrowing by £30bn a year and plunge the nation into recession.

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Baroness Judith Jolly said Mr Johnson’s pledge “will not be worth the paper it’s written on” when a no-deal hits.

Cancer Research UK policy director Emma Greenwood said the investment would go “some way to address the immense strain” the NHS is under but stressed that funding in recruitment and training is essential to meet rising demand.

Mr Johnson is expected to visit a hospital on Monday to formally announce the new funding.

The money will benefit facilities across England, including in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cornwall.

His pledge will add to Theresa May’s £33.9bn annual increase for the health service by 2023/24.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “This is a significant start to the much needed capital investment so that our nurses, doctors and other NHS staff will be able to care for their patients in modern facilities with state of the art equipment.”

Boris Johnson’s extra £1.8bn for NHS criticised as ‘drop in the ocean’

The prime minister’s £1.8bn cash injection for the NHS has been criticised as a “drop in the ocean”, as experts call for more funding across the healthcare system. Boris Johnson announced that £850m of the one-off payment would go to repairing 20 hospitals on Sunday. He pledged the funding on his first day in office.

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