Commenting on the Prime Minister’s pledge of £3 billion in additional funding for the NHS ahead of winter, Nuffield Trust Director of Strategy Helen Buckingham said:
“There is no doubt that this winter is going to be the toughest faced by the health service in its 72-year history. It's sensible to put in a sizeable sum to help manage the extraordinary pressures of living alongside Covid-19 and the more usual seasonal pressures, and NHS staff will welcome it.
“But the infection control measures required to restart NHS services will mean an eye-watering productivity hit. This additional money is equivalent to the extra funding the health service was burning through every few weeks in the first wave of coronavirus.
“Spread out over the rest of the year, £3 billion wouldn't be enough to stop a massive hit to waiting times and access to care. Money aside, for the NHS to get back to full speed we need to have enough staff and the right environment, and in the immediate future we won’t have either. Staff are exhausted and need to recover over the summer. Cleaning and testing will slow down operations, and the UK's cramped hospital buildings make separating Covid patients harder.
"Even a very large amount of money is no substitute for protecting the NHS from being hit by a second wave in the first place. That makes the test, track and trace system vital, and it is worrying that it is still not reaching as many people as it needs to.
"We should remember too that hospitals are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health and care. It's not clear whether this funding is intended to stretch across the whole system of hospitals, community and GP services, social care and public health. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to end any notion that care outside hospital is someone else’s problem."
Notes to editors
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