The Government will invest £250m to fund 900 new beds, to help boost capacity this winter in England, as part of the Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan.
Health secretary Steve Barclay announced that new funding would be made available for NHS trusts to improve capacity and reduce wait times over the winter months.
Across England, 30 NHS organisations will benefit from the investment, using funds to develop or expand urgent treatment centres and same day emergency services.
The NHS expects that the majority of schemes will be completed by January, in time to assist in relieving winter pressures.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that cutting waiting lists is ‘one of my top five priorities’ and that the government was ‘working to get ahead of pressures’ this winter.
‘Creating additional hospital capacity will support staff to provide the best possible care and treat patients more quickly, helping us to improve waiting times.’
However, the plans have come under criticism from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who claim that the investment in beds neglects the need to invest in a sustainable nursing workforce.
Responding to the Government’s announcement RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said that ‘The elephant in the room is who will staff these additional beds?’
Ms Cullen added: ‘Nursing staff are already spread too thinly over too many patients.
‘Everyday nursing staff are under unsustainable pressure, with over 40,000 vacant nursing posts in England. It is leaving our patients receiving lower quality care, often in inappropriate settings, and our colleagues burnt out and heading towards the door.’
Ms Cullen said that the Prime Minister should not ‘ignore the nursing staff walking out of the profession’ if he was ‘serious’ about cutting waiting times.
Out of the 900 beds created, 60 will be intermediate care beds as well as funding the improvement of assessment spaces and A&E cubicles.
Several trusts will develop or expand Urgent Treatment Centres to treat patients more quickly, helping to reduce waiting times, including Hull Royal Infirmary, James Cook University Hospital, Airedale General Hospital and Worthing Hospital.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘Winter is always a busy time for the NHS and so it is right that we put robust plans in place as early as possible to boost capacity and help frontline staff to prepare for additional pressure.
‘Our winter plans, which build on the progress already made on our urgent and emergency care recovery plan, aim to reduce waiting times for patients and to transform services with an expansion of same day care and virtual wards, helping patients to be cared for in their own home where possible.’