New short-term capital funding boost for NHS in England will only scratch the surface Health Foundation response to Prime Minister's announcement of funding for NHS capital infrastructure projects

4 August 2019

Ben Gershlick, Senior Economist at the Health Foundation, said: 

'The confirmation of a short-term boost to capital funding in England is welcome recognition of the urgent need for investment in the NHS’s creaking infrastructure. It is positive that the 20 upgrade projects announced are not just for hospitals but also include mental health and primary care facilities. But the process through which they have been chosen is opaque. Decisions about what upgrades to prioritise need to be informed by a clear and transparent assessment of where improvements are most urgently needed to benefit patient care.  
'Given the scale of underinvestment in NHS buildings, equipment and technology in recent years, this level of funding will only scratch the surface and will not close the gap in health care capital spending between England and comparable countries. Even after this additional money, there remains a major risk to the quality of patient care posed by deteriorating facilities, out of date infrastructure and a shortage of equipment.

‘There is a £6bn maintenance backlog in trusts alone, of which over £3bn is 'high or significant risk', meaning that it is likely to be causing major disruption to services and impacting significantly on patient care quality and safety. Trusts have reported ward conditions so appalling that they impede patient recovery and the NHS has been unable to meet its 62-day target for cancer treatment for the past five years, partly due to a lack of diagnostic equipment and capacity. 

'In this context, any new funding for buildings, equipment and technology will help, but allocating money late in the year and changing budgets multiple times is not an effective way to plan investment. The health secretary has promised a comprehensive settlement for capital spending that will follow this short-term boost. This is welcome but must happen sooner rather than later, and be driven by a transparent and robust assessment of the needs of patients and staff.

'Equally important will be adequate funding to address the workforce and social care crises and to reverse cuts to the public health grant – all vital to a high quality, sustainable health service. But with long-term funding decisions likely to be delayed due to uncertainty about the economic outlook, it is unclear when these warm words about a long-term settlement for capital will translate into action and where additional funding for the NHS will be found since experts agree that Brexit will not result in a fiscal windfall.'

Media contacts

Simon Perry 
07411 22 4926

Sam Fletcher
07791 044564

Further reading


The excluded middle: Is the 'new money' new or not?

5 August 2019

The announcement of a £1.8bn cash injection for NHS capital infrastructure projects has generated...


Watch: capital spending on health care in England explained


Watch our short video explaining capital spending on health care in England, including what it is...


Failing to capitalise

March 2019

A report outlining how short-term thinking has resulted in years of inadequate capital spending for...

You might also like...


Government must be realistic about the pace of NHS recovery


Health Foundation response to the Government's 2021–22 mandate to NHS England and NHS Improvement

Newsletter blog

Rescue to recovery: why we must keep looking ahead

Newsletter blog

‘In the middle of a global pandemic it has sometimes felt strange to be thinking long term’,...


President Biden’s uphill task on US health care


Episode 6. What can the Biden administration accomplish on health and health care in the next four...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

Applications to join @theQCommunity are open. Now more than ever, it is important that improvers continue to share…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more