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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Budget: 'Under pressure' NHS handed additional £350 million to cope with coming winter

Written by Ella Pickover

The "under pressure" NHS in England has been given an additional £350 million to cope with pressures over the coming winter.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to plough money into the service as it enters the difficult winter months.

Mr Hammond acknowledged that the service is "under pressure" as he committed resource funding of £2.8 billion to the NHS in England.

This includes the immediate funds for winter planning, £1.6 billion in 2018/19 and the rest the year after.

Mr Hammond said: "Our NHS is one of our great institutions, an essential part of what we are as a nation, and a source of pride the length and breadth of the country.

"Its values are the values of the British people, and we will always back it.

"Dedicated NHS staff are handling the challenges of an ageing population and rapidly advancing technology with skill and commitment and we salute them.

"The number of patients being treated is at record levels, cancer survival rates are at their highest ever level, 17 million are now able to access GP appointments in the evenings and at weekends and public satisfaction among hospital inpatients is at its highest level in more than 20 years.

"It is central to this Government's vision that everyone has access to the NHS free at the point of need.

"That is why we endorsed and funded the NHS's Five Year Forward View in 2014.

"But even with this additional funding, we acknowledge that the service remains under pressure and today we respond.

"First we will deliver an additional £10 billion package of capital investment in frontline services over the course of this parliament to support the Sustainability and Transformation plans which will make our NHS more resilient. Investing in an NHS fit for the future.

"But we also recognise that the NHS is under pressure right now.

"I am therefore exceptionally, and outside the Spending Review process, making an additional commitment of resource funding of £2.8 billion to the NHS in England - £350 million immediately to allow trusts to plan for this winter, £1.6 billion in 2018/19 with the balance in 19/20, taking the extra resource into the NHS next year to £3.75 billion in total.

"Meaning that our NHS will receive a £7.5 billion increase to its resource budget over this year and next."

Earlier this month, NHS England boss Simon Stevens made a desperate plea for money for the health service.

He said that without more money for the NHS, the number of patients waiting to be admitted to hospital in England to have surgery will rocket to five million by 2021.

Mr Stevens told the NHS Providers conference in Birmingham that expansion plans for mental health and improvements in cancer care could stall.

He also indicated that controversial rationing policies adopted in some parts of the NHS could be rolled out nationally without more money.

He drew on a new analysis by the Health Foundation, the King's Fund and the Nuffield Trust, which calculated that the NHS needs £4 billion more next year to prevent patient care from deteriorating.

Commenting on the announcement Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine - which represents hospital doctors who look after patients admitted as an emergency who do not need surgery, said: "The additional £350 million will just about cover agency spend this winter if it has not already been earmarked or spent by trusts which are covering debts from last year.

"We have frontline staff working harder than ever and achieving daily miracles managing to patch together safe care for those who need it and that will continue despite this increase.

"Over the last 15 years, the number of people requiring admission has risen by 40% while the number of available acute medical beds has fallen by 20%.

"For as long as the Government fails to provide the investment adequate for an NHS which is contending with older, frailer and more complex patients then we will struggle to compete against the eternal pressures we face."

Ministers hope that the additional investment will help the NHS get back on track with waiting times for routine surgery and A&E targets.

Mr Hammond also said that it would fund pay awards negotiated for nurses, midwives and paramedics.

He said: "Our nation's nurses provide invaluable support to us all in our time of greatest need and deserve our deepest gratitude for their tireless efforts.

"The Health Secretary (pictured) has already begun discussions with health unions on pay structure modernisation for Agenda for Change staff to improve recruitment and retention. He will submit evidence to the independent Pay Review Body in due course.

"But I want to assure NHS staff and patients and Members of this House, that if the Health Secretary's talks bear fruit, I will protect patient services by providing additional funding for such a settlement."

Commenting, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers - the trade body which represents NHS services, said: "Overall this new funding is less than the NHS needed but more than was expected.

"But, as always, NHS trusts will do their absolute best to provide the highest quality care for patients within the funding settlement that's been allocated."

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, added: "The Chancellor's announcement of extra funding for the NHS is welcome but we now urgently need the Government and NHS England to confirm that they will keep existing plans for the delivery of mental health promises on track.

"It would be a catastrophic betrayal of people with mental illness if pledges already made to fund more services were to be abandoned now."

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: "We look forward to continuing to work with trade union colleagues and the Department of Health to agree how contract arrangements can be reformed and our employees benefit a welcome lifting of the pay cap.

"There is a great deal to discuss, but the Chancellor's commitment to fund the additional pay bill is welcome."

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "The Chancellor has clearly listened to the tens of thousands of nursing staff who've been campaigning for fair pay, and he was right to address their concerns.

"Promising the NHS additional money for nursing pay is welcome, but Philip Hammond must make it a meaningful pay rise."

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of council at the British Medical Association, said: "The NHS is facing the toughest period in its history and today's Budget offers little respite.

"The extra funding promised may ease some short-term pressures, but it falls far short of addressing the serious, long-term funding problems facing the NHS and doesn't plug the funding black hole identified by the NHS' own leaders.

"Today's Budget was a missed opportunity to put patient care first, address the funding gap and undo damaging cuts to the NHS."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.