Following extensive conversations with Trust leaders over the last three months, NHS Providers has written to the government outlining the support Trust leaders need to cope with the pressures of the coming months. These include continuing to treat rising numbers of COVID-19 patients whilst working to reduce the massive backlog of patients waiting for routine treatment, delivering the next phase of the vaccination campaign, very high levels of demand for urgent and emergency services and reduced capacity, all of this with winter pressures looming and a workforce that is already tired and overstretched and many of whom are self-isolating as community infections remain high.
An emergency capital round for winter and elective recovery is one of seven clear requests from Trust leaders who say their inability to access small amounts of capital to prepare for winter and speed up backlog recovery is one of their main problems at the moment. Even small amounts of capital, they say, will have a positive impact on backlog recovery.
The provision of emergency capital at this time of year – such as last year’s injection of £450m for A&E facilities - is also proven to support effective winter plans. NHS Providers believes Trusts need a similar, cross-sector commitment now, which, for it to have maximum effect, needs to reach the frontline by the end of August.
Also on the ‘wish list’ for NHS Trust leaders:
• Roll over ‘discharge to access’ (D2A) funding
• Replenish the elective recovery fund (ERF)
• Confirm full funding of the recent Government 3% pay offer
• Speed up elective recovery by ensuring finance and contracting arrangements to allow the NHS to maximise use of independent sector capacity
• Set a reasonable second half task and ensure appropriate incentives
• Conclude and communicate second half budget allocations as quickly as possible.
The Chief Medical and Chief Scientific Officers are amongst those who believe this will be one of the most difficult winters the NHS has ever faced, due to a combination of flu, COVID-19, expected levels of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in children and the usual winter pressures.
NHS Trust leaders are also clear that the overall level of pressure is now much the same as it was in January, although the shape is different. Writing in a blog, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, says: “They need maximum support from government and they’re worried that, as the NHS budget is set for the second half of the year, that support won’t arrive. The government is stressing the need to restore public finances, but the NHS can’t meet the pressures it faces without the right funding.