In response to the expected announcement, Ben Gershlick, Senior Economist at the Health Foundation, said:
'The government's expected announcement of a £1.8bn short-term funding boost for upgrades to 20 hospitals and NHS capital infrastructure projects is welcome. But while the Prime Minister might be looking forward to cutting the ribbon at a new hospital ward, years of underinvestment in the NHS’s infrastructure means this extra money risks being little more than a drop in the ocean. Many hospitals, GP surgeries, and community and mental health facilities across England are in major disrepair with the maintenance backlog in trusts alone now totalling over £6bn. Just bringing England up to the OECD average for capital spending on health care would require an extra £4bn (in 2019/20 prices) a year by 2023/24.
'While hospital upgrades are likely to be popular and are certainly needed, there is also a great deal of urgent spending needed on other areas of capital, including updating ageing IT infrastructure and investing in CT and MRI scanners. Without vital improvements such as these, the productivity of the health service and quality of patient care will suffer. It also remains to be seen how much of this pledge will amount to new money, or whether the intention is to give the go ahead for previously cancelled plans within the existing capital budget.
'What the NHS needs is a comprehensive, long-term funding settlement for capital that is driven by the needs of patients and staff. Alongside this, there is the unfinished business of the necessary funding to address the growing NHS workforce and social care crises, and to reverse cuts to the public health grant. All of these will be vital to achieving the vision set out for the NHS in England.
'Crucially, investment in the NHS must not come at the expense of other areas of public funding which benefit people's health and have seen sustained cuts in the past decade, such as Sure Start and other local government services.'
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