NHS to receive extra £3 billion to prepare for second wave of coronavirus

16 July 2020, 22:30

The extra funding will help the NHS in the event of a second spike of Covid-19 cases
The extra funding will help the NHS in the event of a second spike of Covid-19 cases. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The NHS will receive an extra £3 billion in funding to prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus cases, Boris Johnson is set to announce.

The prime minister will confirm the extra funding for the health service during a Downing Street press conference on Friday.

No 10 said the money will give hospitals greater capacity while also ensuring routine treatments and procedures continue unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after the Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned that Covid-19 is likely to be around for a number of years, amid fears that the virus could rebound in the winter.

Mr Johnson will also use the briefing to commit to a new target of reaching the capacity for 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by November.

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The funding for the NHS in England will allow beds in private hospitals to be used in the event of a second wave, the prime minister is expected to say.

It will also ensure the Nightingale hospitals, set up at the peak of the pandemic, are maintained until the end of March 2021.

The announcement comes following a report, commissioned by Sir Patrick, that offered a stark warning that there could be 120,000 hospital deaths in a "reasonable worst-case scenario."

With the winter months just around the corner, that always put the NHS under greater strain, there are worries a coronavirus resurgence could cripple the health service.

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A Downing Street spokesman said: "Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of the British people, the virus is under control and we have eased restrictions in a cautious, phased way.

"But the Prime Minister is clear that now is not the time for complacency, and we must make sure our NHS is battle ready for winter.

"Tomorrow, he will set out a broad package of measures to protect against both a possible second wave, and to ease winter pressures and keep the public safe."

The immediate funding for England is new and not allocated, the spokesman added.

Expenditure for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be set out in due course, he said.

Meanwhile, the prime minister is also expected to publish an additional chapter to the Government's "road map" for recovery from the crisis.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS organisations, welcomed the financial support to prepare for the "triple whammy of pressures" from winter, a possible second surge and trying to recover from the strain of the pandemic so far.

But deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery called for "urgent clarity" over what the funding will cover, saying funding is already in place for the Nightingale hospitals and private beds.

"Trusts need more than that. They have got to recover the lost ground of the last four or five months and put measures in place to manage the additional activity that always happens in winter," she added.

"Sadly what we do know won't be included is social care.

"Social care across the country is in a critical condition and the Government has still failed to commit to providing the sector with the funding it needs to be fully sustainable."

The British Medical Association also called for details on how the money will be spent.

Council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "The Government talks of winter planning, but we need transparency on this, including how far this money can stretch in tackling a modelled worst-case forecast - including a second peak, additional non-Covid demand and a possible flu outbreak.

"Crucially, the Government must make prevention a priority and take every necessary step to try and avoid a national second spike all together."

NHS Providers welcomed the financial support but called for clarity over what it will cover
NHS Providers welcomed the financial support but called for clarity over what it will cover. Picture: PA

Earlier on Thursday, Sir Patrick told MPs on the Science and Technology Committee on Thursday that the coronavirus outcome in the UK "has not been good."

When asked about the UK's response to the pandemic, Sir Patrick said: "As (chief medical officer Professor) Chris Whitty has said before, it's very difficult to know where we stand at the moment.

"It's clear that the outcome has not been good in the UK, I think you can be absolutely clear about that.

"It is clear you can see a band of countries that have done less well in the temperate zone.

"Countries that are very well connected internationally, countries that have got population structures of a certain type.

"There are many factors that are going to play in this as we look and say, 'what is it that makes some countries having done worse than others?', and there will be decisions made that will turn out not to have been the right decisions at the time."

Sir Patrick had previously said 20,000 deaths would be a "good result" in the pandemic, but the latest figures show the UK has seen the deaths rise to more than double that.

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