Hospital trusts in England are to receive money from a fund worth more than £145m to improve care for patients over winter, the government has announced.
It said money would be spent on upgrading wards and redeveloping accident and emergency departments ahead of winter, as well as providing an extra 900 beds.
“It’s right that we make sure staff have the resources they need so people receive the care they deserve”
The government said it was providing further funding to “help staff prepare for the expected increase in patient demand over winter”.
A total of 81 new schemes have been given the go ahead for funding from the Department of Health and Social Care’s existing capital funding budget, totalling £145m.
This will include money for upgrading wards, redeveloping A&Es, improving same day emergency care, and improving the systems hospitals use to manage the number of patient beds in use.
In addition, the government said the funding would also be used for an extra 900 beds, which will “help staff to give better care to patients over winter”.
For example, the University Hospital of North Midlands is set to receive £8.82m which will go toward two additional wards on the Royal Stoke site.
At East Kent Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, £6.42m will be used to increase emergency capacity at the William Harvey Hospital and at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital.
In addition, at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, money will assist emergency day care, help manage patient flow through the hospital and redesign the way ambulances hand over.
The government statement announcing the funding, which was published today, described last winter as “challenging”.
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However, it said more than 500 more people were seen in A&E and admitted or discharged within four hours every day “thanks to the efforts and dedication of hard working frontline staff”.
It noted that the announcement followed an extra £36m for ambulance services and restated that its promised Long Term Plan for the NHS would guarantee an extra £394m a week by 2023-24.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Staff put in a huge amount of work preparing our health service for the challenge of treating more patients over winter and it’s right that we make sure they have the resources they need so people receive the care they deserve.
“That’s why I will be providing an additional £145m now to upgrade wards, redevelop A&Es and further improve emergency care in time for winter,” said Mr Hancock, who is facing his first winter as health secretary.
He added: “Through the Long Term Plan for the NHS, we will go further, providing an extra £20.5bn a year by 2023-24 to transform care for patients and guarantee the future of our health service.”
Earlier this year, the government provided £36.3m to ambulances trusts to pay for 256 new vehicles as well as “make ready hubs” at their headquarters to allow “better restocking and maintenance”.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson highlighted that last winter was “extremely tough for trusts and frontline staff”.
“We welcome the bringing forward of capital funding so that trust can improve and extend their A&E departments – trusts consistently tell us that they are struggling to cope with demand that is far in excess of what their A&E departments were built to handle,” he said.
“However, we are worried about the coming winter,” he said. “Demand for treatment is rising relentlessly, staff vacancies are at record levels, and after a difficult summer, staff have been working at full tilt without any break. It’s important that the government recognises just how hard trusts and their staff are working.”
He added: “The single biggest thing the government could do now to make a difference for the NHS this winter is to rapidly put more money into our increasingly crisis-ridden social care system. The NHS can also help itself by maximising the number of staff flu vaccinations and we welcome the plans to support this.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the funding would “make a difference” and was an “acknowledgement of the intolerable strain faced by too many patients and staff last winter”.
“We now have to do everything in our power to make this winter a better one – the redeveloped A&E departments, better systems for managing beds and the extra beds will help but it will still be a very significant challenge,” he said. “The truth is the system is under strain all year.”