NHS to receive £3 billion funding boost in case of second Covid-19 wave
Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that the NHS in England will receive an additional £3 billion in funding to help prepare for the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 cases in winter, which will help ease the pressures of the colder season on the health service.
The investment comes after experts warned that there could be as many as 120,000 new Covid-19 deaths in hospitals during the winter months.
When announcing the investment at a Downing Street briefing on Friday, Johnson also committed to scaling up testing capacity to a minimum if 500,000 per day by the end of October.
The PM said: "Demand for testing is not the only challenge that winter will bring. It's possible that the virus will be more virulent in the winter months and it's certain that the NHS will face the usual annual winter pressures.
"We're making sure we're ready for winter and planning for the worst."
Johnson also confirmed that additional funding would go to NHS bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help their preparations, and that the money would become available immediately to enable the health service to continue using private hospital capacity and keep the temporary Covid-19 Nightingale hospitals functional until the end of March 2021.
Downing Street said that keeping the extra capacity available will not only allow the NHS to cater for extra Covid patients, but also enable the health service to carry out its routine treatments and procedures on its own sites.
NHS England informed hospitals back in May that non-urgent procedures should resume after they were put on hold as the country ended lockdown in March.
The prime minister also promised an increase in the supply of personal protective equipment [PPE] and ventilators, along with the largest flu vaccination programme in the history of the NHS to help relieve winter pressures.
Johnson also used Friday’s briefing to announce a further relaxing of lockdown restrictions as the government plans a “significant return to normality…possibly by Christmas.”
The PM encouraged the public to use public transport for journeys straight away and said that employers will be able to look at bringing more staff back into workplaces - providing they adhere to safety procedures - from August 1.
The devolved administrations will be able to ease restrictions at times of their choosing, but in England indoor gyms, pools and other sports facilities can reopen from July 25.
August 1 will see advice to employers updated about bringing staff back into the workplace, along with the reopening of most remaining leisure venues such as bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos and close contact services such as beauticians. Nightclubs and soft play areas will remain closed until a later date and remain under review.
The start of August could also see indoor performances with live audiences return should pilot schemes prove successful, as well as wedding receptions for up to 30 people. Large gatherings in sports stadiums will also be piloted with a view to returning in October. Conferences and other business events will also be allowed to resume in October should piloting prove successful.
In September, schools, nurseries and colleges will return in vogue, while universities can look to reopen as fully as possible in line with safety rules.
Johnson stressed that the plan “remains conditional” on the trajectory of the pandemic, adding that it was his “strong and sincere hope” that circumstances will transpire as planned to allow some normality to return before the festive season.
However, the day before the PM’s announcement the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said that there was “absolutely no reason” to change guidelines around working from home.