Boris Johnson announces £1.8bn cash boost for NHS

New UK prime minister Boris Johnson has pledged a £1.8 billion cash injection for the NHS as he ramps up plans for the country to leave the EU – with or without a deal – by October 31st.

The cash boost will be seen as an attempt by Johnson to make good on claims he made during the 2016 referendum that leaving the EU would free up £350 million for the NHS – a pledge that has often been criticised as unrealistic.

“Today I’m delivering on this promise with a £1.8 billion pound cash injection — meaning more beds, new wards, and extra life-saving equipment to ensure patients continue to receive world-class care,” Johnson said in a statement.

“It’s time to face up to this challenge and make sure the NHS receives the funds it needs to continue being the best healthcare service in the world.”

£1 billion of the new funding will immediately go towards new equipment and upgrades to 20 hospitals. The rest is expected to go towards clearing the estimated £6 billion backlog of maintenance projects for the health service. 

But the Nuffield Trust’s chief executive Nigel Edwards said that the money is “only a fraction” of what is needed to really upgrade 20 hospitals.

“Nobody should expect shiny new hospitals in their towns any time soon,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see money assigned to capital funding, which will help stop hospitals deteriorating even further, but without comprehensively tackling the current workforce crisis, any new beds will be languishing on ghost wards.”

Similarly, Ben Gershlick from The Health Foundation called the money a “drop in the ocean” thanks to “years of under-investment in the NHS’ infrastructure”.

Meanwhile Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation and chief executive of NHS Employers, described the funding as “desperately needed” to modernise services and working environments and improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.

Mortimer also said other promises by the prime minister to tackle the social care crisis were welcome, but that Johnson’s words would be “meaningless” without concrete action to back them up.

Johnson, a more outspoken leaver than his predecessor Theresa May, has promised to take the UK out of the EU by October 31st even if a new deal with the bloc cannot be struck. Many in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries have warned that a no deal scenario would disrupt supplies to essential drugs whilst exacerbating staff and funding issues in the NHS. 

Many MPs are bitterly opposed to leaving without a deal, with threats to bring down Jonhson’s government if he attempts to do so intensifying over the last month. 

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