The DHSC says the funding, to be split across all regions in England, will help reduce waiting times by expanding the number of operating theatres and beds, including new day surgery units, and investment in technology to improve patients’ experience of care, and help them manage their conditions. The Government has also today (3 December) published a document setting out ‘the key challenges’ facing NHS and social care services this winter, including COVID-19 and the potential threat of variants, preparations being undertaken to keep people safe and healthy, and the actions the public can take – such as ensuring they have COVID-19 and ‘flu jabs.
The investment just announced is part of the £5.4 billion already unveiled to support the NHS response to the pandemic in the second half of 2021. In total, the government is investing over £34 billion of additional funding in health and social care services this year. The £700 m announced today includes £330 m for upgrading NHS facilities, £250 m for new technology, and £120 m for any supporting revenue costs.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid (pictured), said: “Ahead of what is going to be a difficult winter, we’re putting everything behind our health and care services, so that everyone can access the services they need, when they need them. Our £700 m investment will help more people get treated by upgrading wards, operating theatres, and diagnostic kit.”
The funding will cover the costs of:
- additional day surgery units to boost activity and avoid patients having to stay overnight or longer;
- additional permanent and modular theatres and surgical hubs in multiple Trusts to drive up the number of operations which can be carried out;
- expanding outpatient space for those not staying overnight, to increase the number of patients that can be seen; and
- upgraded or new imaging equipment, including MRI and mobile breast screening units.
In total, 785 schemes have been approved, including the following major projects:
- £13.8 m for new wards at University Hospitals Birmingham, delivering an expected 164 additional adult inpatient beds Trust-wide.
- £14.4 m at St George’s Hospitals to deliver a new modular facility providing 20 intensive treatment unit beds.
- £10.2 m to develop a new South Mersey Elective Hub, with two new theatres and recovery areas.
- £10 m for a day surgery site in Castle Hill Hospital, Hull, which will house four theatres, and all supporting services.
- £7.1 m to build a 32-bedded modular ward at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
- £5.9 m at Bedford Hospital to create 20 flexible multi-purpose outpatient rooms.
The Department of Health & Social Care added that ‘to prepare for this winter’, the NHS and national and local government have undertaken a range of actions, which include:
- Working to recruit 18,000 more staff, including nurses, healthcare support workers, and medical support workers, alongside making use of temporary staffing and staff banks;
- supporting the workforce with access to health and wellbeing support and mental health hubs;
- bolstering capacity across urgent and emergency care and the wider NHS, including with a £250 million investment in general practice and the forthcoming Elective Recovery Plan;
- publishing an adult social care winter plan, including £388 m to support infection prevention control, and £162.5 m for workforce recruitment and retention;
- investing £478 m for support services, rehabilitation, and reablement care, following discharge from hospital, and ensuring that health and social care services ‘are joined up’.
From April 2022, thanks to the new Health and Social Care Levy, UK wide healthcare funding will rise ‘by a record £36 billion’ over the next three years. The new funding includes a commitment to ring-fence an additional £8 billion to fund waiting list recovery – ‘the biggest catch-up programme in NHS history’.
The levy funding is on top of the government’s previous long-term settlement for the NHS, which will see NHS funding increase by £33.9 billion to £148.5 billion by 2023-24.