The new prime minister has made “hospital upgrades” a focus in his first speech as prime minister and “ensuring the money for the NHS really does get the frontline”.
Boris Johnson said in Downing Street: “We start this week with 20 new hospital upgrades.” The details are not yet clear. He added that the government would focus on “ensuring the money for the NHS really does get the frontline”, with reference to the NHS revenue funding boost the government commited last year; and said it would reduce GP waiting times.
He also said: “We will fix the crisis for social care once and for all with a plan we have prepared.”
It comes amid a growing clamour from the service for increased capital spending. Mr Johnson is well known for the indication during the 2016 Brexit referendum it would result in an extra £350m a week for the NHS.
In recent months he has supported the case for extra resources for the health service.
One well placed source told HSJ “hospital upgrades” would be an early focus for Mr Johnson as prime minister.
HSJ was told discussions have focused on capital investment particularly in so-called “left behind” poorer areas of England, where many people voted to leave the European Union, and which may be potential swing seats at any future general election.
Mr Johnson’s team are said to be keen that the government’s prioritising the NHS is felt at the “frontline”.
ITV political editor Robert Peston reported: “A senior Vote Leave source tells me to expect ’big NHS rebuilding programme very fast… Our team was deadly serious about the NHS and with Brexit it will be their top priority to get cash to frontline starting immediately.”
Several senior figures from the Vote Leave campaign have already been hired to Mr Johnson’s team in Downing Street.
NHS England, NHS Providers and many others in the health service have been highlighting the urgent need for more NHS capital spending in recent months.
The size of any capital spending boost by the Johnson government will remain uncertain and no chancellor has yet been appointed.
Many in the health service have estimated that substantial sums are required, to address big maintenance backlogs as well as making improvements and expanding capacity.
In 2017, a government commissioned report, which was accepted by the government, called for an additional £10bn of funding over five years. There has since been uncertainty as to where this money is coming from, as the private finance initiative – which was due to contribute a third of the ask – has been scrapped and there has not yet been a significant increase to the capital budget.
Meanwhile, the Health Foundation has outlined how NHS capital spending has lagged behind that of the healthcare systems in most other advanced countries. Many senior NHS leaders, including Sir David Dalton, have also expressed their frustrations at being unable to secure capital financing for crucial transformation projects.
NHS England’s chair called in June for a £50bn bond for NHS infrastructure spending.
The new prime minister is expected to appoint cabinet ministers later today and tomorrow.
Sources and reports