The NHS will receive £3bn in extra funding to ‘get ready for winter’ during the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
He said this comes as it ‘is possible that the virus will be more virulent in the winter months – and it is certain that the NHS will face the usual, annual winter pressures’.
He said this would fund extra hospital capacity which the NHS has ‘acquired from the independent sector’, as well as maintaning the ‘Nightingale’ Covid-19 field hospitals until March next year.
Notably, Mr Johnson did not mention general practice or the General Practice Covid Support Fund promised by NHS England, which has yet to receive approval from the Treasury.
Mr Johnson said: ‘Today, I can confirm that we are providing an additional £3bn of funding to the NHS in England to get ready for winter. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also receive additional funds…
‘This new funding comes on top of the additional £30bn of funding for health and social care that we have already announced this year. So we are making sure we are ready for winter, and planning for the worst. But even as we plan for the worst, I strongly believe we should also hope for the best.’
Mr Johnson also announced plans to expand Covid-19 testing capacity to half a million per day by the end of October, ‘not least as many more people will show Covid-like symptoms as a result of seasonal illnesses, and therefore require a test’.
And he reiterated plans to roll out ‘the biggest ever flu vaccination programme in the history of the UK’.
Further, he said that from 1 August, the Government’s advice for people to work from home if they can will change to allow employers discretion. The Government has previously signalled that this will include shielding GPs returning to work.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented: ‘The BMA has been clear that the Government needs to urgently boost NHS funding ahead of winter, in order to address the huge backlog in non-Covid care and to prepare for a potentially disastrous second wave of Covid-19 – something which was absent from the Chancellor’s statement.
‘However, it’s vital that we’re given an understanding of how exactly this announced money will be used – and whether it is enough – to boost capacity both for a potential second wave, but also to meet the needs of millions of patients who have had care delayed during the pandemic.’
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