As the latest ERIC data reveals that backlog maintenance across the NHS in England has risen again, to a new high of £9.2bn, a report from NHS Confederation, based on survey results of NHS leaders, reveals that 95% of healthcare leaders fear they will not receive enough capital money at the forthcoming Spending Review to deliver on the government’s plans for the NHS. Furthermore, they warn that insufficient capital funding may impact safety standards, digital innovations and worsening inequalities.
In ‘Beyond bricks and mortar: capital funding for the NHS’ healthcare leaders outline many ways in which capital helps to provide better patient care and criticise the disjoined and opaque capital application system alongside concerns around how integrated care systems will allocate and prioritise capital spend. NHS Confederation recommends the government should increase the capital budget by at least £1.8bn per annum – from £8.53bn in 2021/22 to £10.3bn by 2024/25 as part of a cross-NHS multi-year strategy that considers all parts of the NHS estate. It also says the process for applying for capital spending needs improvement.
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, says: "The NHS welcomed the Government’s recent extra investment in the day-to-day running costs of the health service. Given the strain on the wider public finances, we know it was not a given and that the money will need to be spent wisely.
"But to help ensure the extra funding is put to best use, we need to address the glaring holes in the capital budget which have left the NHS with run-down buildings, a major maintenance backlog and limited potential for maximising the use of digital technology. Unless the Government addresses this shortfall in the comprehensive spending review later this month, the risk is that patient safety will be compromised and that the NHS will be held back in its attempts to reduce waiting lists.
"Capital investment drives productivity improvements and will enable the NHS to increase capacity, more easily separate out the treatment of Covid and non-Covid patients, to diagnose patients more quickly and to bring down waiting times. It’s the missing piece of the funding jigsaw that the Government now needs to address.
"The amount of capital funding needs to increase but we also need to see much faster access to the capital funding that is available. Too often capital funding bids are subject to long delays before final decisions are reached. As we approach a hugely challenging winter and with a record backlog of care to deal with, we must provide much quicker access to capital funding to enable NHS leaders and their teams to make the necessary changes that are needed to their buildings and infrastructure."