The health service is set to receive a further multimillion pound government bailout aimed at avoiding a politically embarrassing failure of the accident and emergency waiting target during winter, HSJ has learned.
It is believed the amount will come to around £280m nationally and be announced in coming weeks, although discussions at national level have not been concluded.
Senior leaders across the NHS in both commissioning and provider organisations told HSJ they have been told to prepare for additional funding.
Sources in the north and south of England have been told to expect around £70m across each region. If the figure is replicated in each of the four regions, the national figure would be around £280m.
All the sources have been told, by NHS England or the NHS Trust Development Authority, that the funding would be provided to ensure the target of seeing 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours of arrival is met during winter.
It follows many organisations failing to meet the target in recent weeks, even before winter, and intense political pressure for the NHS not to fail standards in the run-up to the general election next May. In the financial year to date, A&E performance has only just met the target.
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The new fund is being coordinated by the Department of Health with NHS England, Monitor and the TDA.
The additional money comes on top of £400m additional funding for “winter pressures” already announced for this financial year.
A senior source at a trust in the Midlands told HSJ they had been “told to prepare another list of things we could spend money on” in preparation for “another tranche of money being allocated”.
It is understood the money will come from funds in the DH’s 2014-15 budget not so far allocated to the NHS.
A department spokesman said: “We continue to look at how we can best support the NHS to cope with any extra short term pressures.” NHS England declined to comment.
Separately, HSJ reported earlier this month that the Liberal Democrats have called for the 2015-16 funding settlement for the NHS to be reopened, amid fears that funding shortfalls could lead to staff layoffs and declining access.