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Government to Increase NHS Capacity With 900 New Beds

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The Department of Health and Social Care has announced today that £250 million in funding will be provided to relieve hospital pressures ahead of the winter and help cut waiting lists. Crucially, this includes 900 new hospital beds. The overall ambition for 5,000 additional core beds is being supported by £1 billion dedicated revenue funding to increase capacity in urgent and emergency care.

The £250 million will also improve assessment spaces and cubicles in A&E, along with develop or expand urgent treatment centres and same day emergency care services.

Delivering on priorities

The £250 million investment is part of the NHS urgent and emergency care recovery plan, published in January 2023, which set out plans to provide over 5,000 additional permanent, fully staffed hospital beds in total. These new 900 beds are part of this commitment and will supposedly help to deliver one of the Government’s 5 top priorities: cutting hospital waiting times.

Schemes

Thirty NHS organisations across England will benefit from the investment in urgent and emergency care services. This includes developing or expanding urgent treatment centres and same day emergency care services which will help patients to be seen more quickly, without being admitted to hospital. NHS England expects that the majority of schemes will be completed by January 2024 to help deal with winter pressures.

In total, the schemes will include over 60 intermediate care beds and improve assessment spaces and cubicles in A&E. Examples of schemes include Peterborough City Hospital, where £12.5 million will be used to provide 72 hospital beds through the conversion of under-utilised non-clinical space. In London at the Northwick Park Hospital, a 32 bed modular acute medical ward is being created through a £22.6 million investment to increase the hospital’s capacity this winter.

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.

Some trusts will also use the funding to develop or expand same day emergency care services, including in Whipps Cross Hospital, Royal Surrey County Hospital, Croydon University hospital and Worthing Hospital. Same day emergency care services help to assess, diagnose and treat patients more quickly, without needing to be admitted to a hospital ward.

Responses

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has stated that the public can be “reassured” that the Government is backing the NHS with the resources it needs as he claimed that “these 900 new beds will mean more people can be treated quickly, speeding up flow through hospitals and reducing frustratingly long waits for treatment”. Sunak also set out the Government’s plan on Twitter.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay and Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive also recognised the challenges of winter in separate statements outlining the need to create a “sustainable NHS” and “help frontline staff prepare for additional pressures”.

However, Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting asserted that this new plan is “nowhere near the fundamental reform the NHS needs”. In a tweet, he stated that the 900 beds make up only 7% of the 12,000 that have been cut since 2010.

Curia’s NHS and Life Sciences Commission

Following the successful launch of the NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission’s 2022 Report, the Commission will appraise the outlined recommendations in 2023. This will allow a measurement of success to be taken on each implementation and a review of new priorities for the NHS and life sciences industry. The Commission will continue to review case studies to highlight best practice for the 2022 recommendations. Through a series of sprints, the Commission will highlight real-world experiences in regions across the UK. Through targeted health data mapping, relevant areas of unmet need and health inequalities can be chosen. Each sprint may appraise one or multiple topic areas from the 2022 report.

The Commission will also hold dedicated inquiry sessions into specific system-level and therapeutic areas of focus. Using the same methodology, the inquiries will provide opportunities for the Commission to gain implementable solutions to these areas and develop similar policy recommendations and reports.

The Commission will continue periodic consultation with selected advisory group bodies and sponsors to steer the methodology and direction of the 2023 activities.

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