£700 million given to NHS to help cut waiting lists this winter


The money will fund 785 schemes for improvements including ward expansions, more beds and operating theatres and upgrading diagnostic equipment. There will be a focus on boosting day surgery so more people can be treated without needing to stay overnight as the health service fights to clear its record backlog.

Hospitals getting a financial leg-up include University Hospitals Birmingham, St George’s Hospitals in south west London and Castle Hill Hospital in Hull.

The NHS waiting list for routine treatment has swelled to 5.8 million after Covid disrupted nonurgent operations and services.

A report this week warned the backlog could more than double to 12 million by March 2025, as millions of “missing” referrals delayed by the pandemic return.

The National Audit Office estimated that between March 2020 and September this year, there were between 7.6 to 9.1 million fewer referrals for elective care.

There were also between 240,000 and 740,000 fewer referrals for patients with suspected cancer, and up to 60,000 fewer people starting cancer treatment than would usually have been expected.

The £700million pot is part of a £5.4billion investment previously announced to support the NHS response to Covid in the second half of the year.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our £700million investment will help more people get treated by upgrading wards, operating theatres and diagnostic kit.”

The funding includes £330million for upgrading NHS facilities, £250million for new technology and £120million to cover costs.

Some 187 hospital trusts in England get boosts including: 

  • £13.8million for new wards at University Hospitals Birmingham, delivering an expected 164 additional adult inpatient beds across the trust.

  • £14.4million at St George’s Hospitals, London, so it can create a new modular facility providing 20 intensive treatment unit beds. 

  • £10.2million to develop a new South Mersey elective surgery hub, with two new theatres and recovery areas.

  • £10million for a day surgery site in Castle Hill Hospital in Hull, which will house four theatres, as well as all supporting services. 

  • £7.1million to build a modular ward at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital with 32 beds.

  • £5.9million at Bedford Hospital to create 20 flexible multi-purpose outpatient rooms.

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “There is no doubt that this winter is going to be tough with staff contending with the highest ever number of 999 calls in October.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “This is much-needed funding, which is part of the previously agreed health budget and is a result of NHS organisations making thorough plans to spend it well.” And he added the money would help “secure care over what promises to be a difficult winter”.

Mr Taylor said: “The funding announced by the Health Secretary will help them do more, including investing in new and refurbished facilities and digital improvements.”

But he believes that the difficulties facing health services in the coming months will be intense, “particularly with the unknowns around the Omicron variant and the enormous commitments of the booster campaign”.

The health chief added: “NHS leaders are eagerly waiting the national guidance on how their teams will be expected to support the booster programme this winter.”

He also cautioned Government to look at the bigger picture.

Mr Taylor said: “Without proper investment in social care to support people in their own homes and in their own communities, NHS leaders will be tackling Covid, the elective backlog and workforce exhaustion with one hand tied behind their backs.”



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