The Government has dedicated an initial £5bn to help the NHS get through the coronavirus outbreak in its Budget.
Although, chancellor Rishi Sunak went on to promise the NHS will get whatever resources it needs to tackle coronavirus, beyond this Budget.
The Budget comes as confirmed diagnoses of coronavirus in the UK jumped to 456 on Tuesday, up from 373 the day before.
The Government has created a Covid-19 Response fund, part of which will be used to make sure the NHS is prepared and protected to treat Coronavirus patients. The fund will also be used to maintain staffing levels during the outbreak.
In addition, the chancellor announced £40m of funding for the National Institute for Health Research and the DHSC. The money would enable further rapid research into Covid-19 and increase the capacity and capability of diagnostic testing and surveillance.
Mr Sunak said ‘whatever extra resources our NHS needs’ to cope with the coronavirus ‘it will get, whether that be millions, or billions, of pounds’.
The Budget also stated: ‘The Budget provides over £6bn of further funding to strengthen the NHS in England and pay for vital services that will improve people’s health, reaffirming the Government’s commitment to health and social care.’
It said this money would fund the Government’s pledge for 50,000 more nurses, 6,000 more GPs and 50 million additional GP appointments per year.
The chancellor also said £10m would be donated to the Covenant Fund Trust to support the mental health of veterans including military nurses.
Other commitments for the NHS included:
· A £34bn funding boost a year by 2024;
· A temporary alternative to ‘fit notes’ so that people advised to self-isolate can obtain a notification via NHS111, which they can use as evidence for absence from work where necessary;
· Over £100m in 40 new hospital projects in 2020/21;
· An increase to immigration health surcharge to £624;
· More than £200m for the NHS in England to replace its oldest diagnostic equipment, including MRI machines, CT scanners, and breast screening equipment;
· The end of hospital car parking fees in England for those in greatest need, including patients with a disability and/or terminal illness and their families, patients with regular appointments, parents of sick children staying overnight and NHS staff working night shifts.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said it is crucial that current staff, plus retired and student nurses joining them, are ‘properly resourced’ to fight coronavirus.
Responding to the chancellor yesterday repeating the pledge to increase staff numbers in the NHS in England to 50,000, Kinnair added: ‘What we need now are detailed plans for how the new nurses will be educated or recruited, and how nurses leaving the NHS will be persuaded to stay.’
‘This needs to be part of a comprehensive pay strategy for England. Pay is an important tool for recruiting and retaining staff – across the UK, we are calling for a meaningful pay rise in 2021/22 for all staff providing publicly-funded health and care services.’
Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund welcomed the coronavirus cash injection but commented that the £6bn funding for the Government’s previous NHS pledges was light on detail.
He said: ‘Chronic workforce shortages remain the single biggest issue currently facing the NHS and social care, yet the Budget was light on detail of how it would boost recruitment and retention, and support under pressure staff.’
He went on to call on the Government to speed up the publication of its long-awaited comprehensive ‘people plan’, setting out how it will achieve targets.