NHS estates boost intensifies calls for action on nurse shortages

Their caution followed prime minister Boris Johnson today revealing the 20 areas in England that are set to receive a share of £850m to upgrade their hospital and primary care buildings and equipment.

“We expect the prime minister to make investment in the supply of nurses a priority”

Dame Donna Kinnair 

In his first policy announcement on health since entering No 10, Mr Johnson said the money would provide “more beds, new wards, and extra life-saving equipment”.

Projects the cash is due to fund include the creation of a new 40-bed low secure unit for people with learning disabilities in Mersey, a £72.3m adult mental health inpatient unit in Manchester, and a £99.9m women’s and children’s hospital in Cornwall.

Mr Johnson has also pledged an extra £1bn to allow existing revamp programmes to be completed.

The £1.8bn is on top of the 3.4% annual increase in funding promised for the NHS over five years by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.

Key figures in nursing and midwifery welcomed the announcement but said tackling the severe shortages of nursing staff must also be a priority for the new administration. 

RCN chief executive and general secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair

Source: RCN

Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, called for extra investment of at least £1bn a year to be committed to higher education for nurses.

She said: “Unlocking money to spend on new buildings and facilities is a positive step, and will be supported most by nurses who have to work in cramped and outdated conditions. Every corner of our health and care services in England needs world-class facilities.

“However, after this announcement, nursing staff will look to the prime minister with even greater expectation of addressing the workforce crisis.

“When one in nine nurse jobs in England is unfilled, we expect the prime minister to make investment in the supply of nurses a priority, including at least £1bn extra each year to attract a new generation of nurses into education, which will benefit the NHS, social care and public health too.”

Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said upgrading buildings and equipment would improve the experience of patients using these hospitals and also the thousands of nursing staff working within them.

“Trusts have reported ward conditions so appalling that they impede patient recover”

Ben Gershlick

However, she added that focus must also be placed on ensuring there were enough suitably qualified health professionals in post with the time needed to provide good quality care.

“We hear from professionals on our register worried about the pressures they face, particularly where there are high levels of vacancies,” she noted.

“Investing in recruiting and retaining nurses, midwives and nursing associates, including supporting their ongoing training and development, must also be a priority to ensure the safest, best care is provided for everyone who needs it.”

In addition, Ms Sutcliffe, former chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission, warned the government to ignore the social care sector “at our peril”.

Their concerns were echoed by commentators in the wider health and social care world, who claimed the cash was only a fraction of what was needed to modernise the NHS’ estate.

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Andrea Sutcliffe

Source: NMC

Andrea Sutcliffe

They noted how nine years of austerity had led to £4.3bn of capital funding being diverted into keeping the NHS running day to day, leaving trusts with a £6bn “maintenance backlog”.

Of this £6bn, £3bn was said to be for “safety critical” repairs or upgrades.

Ben Gershlick, senior economist at the Health Foundation, said the money pledged would “only scratch the surface” of what was needed.

“Trusts have reported ward conditions so appalling that they impede patient recovery and the NHS has been unable to meet its 62-day target for cancer treatment for the past five years, partly due to a lack of diagnostic equipment and capacity,” added Mr Gershlick, who also criticised a lack of transparency over the process through which the hospital beneficiaries had been chosen.

Richard Murray, chief executive of fellow think-tank the King’s Fund, said the new funding was a “welcome first step” but must be followed by a longer term capital investment programme. 

“A prolonged period of underfunding has increasingly left some patients at risk as staff struggle to cope with faulty equipment in buildings that are in some cases literally falling apart around them,” he added.

“I made it my immediate task to make sure frontline services have the funding they need”

Boris Johnson

He said “urgent action” was also needed to address what he called the biggest challenge facing the NHS – staff shortages – including by introducing financial incentives to attract more people into the nursing profession.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said it was “encouraging” to see money assigned to hospital estates but warned that ,without comprehensively tackling the current workforce crisis, “any new beds will be languishing on ghost wards”.

Mr Johnson is due to officially unveil the beneficiaries of the new cash during a visit to a hospital in Lincolnshire today, where he will also speak to nurses about how they want the NHS to be improved.

Ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson said: “The NHS is always there for us – free at the point of use for everyone in the country.

“With our doctors and nurses working tirelessly day in day out, this treasured institution truly showcases the very best of Britain.

“That’s why I made it my immediate task to make sure frontline services have the funding they need, to make a real difference to the lives of NHS staff, and above all, of patients.” 

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Meanwhile, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said the investment was “just the start” of the government’s “health infrastructure plan”.

Chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens said: “This is a significant start to the much-needed capital investment so that our nurses, doctors and other NHS staff will be able to care for their patients in modern facilities with state-of-the-art equipment.

“The concrete steps being set out this week will mean investment flows directly to frontline services, providing new clinics and wards. As they come on line, as part of our NHS Long Term Plan, patients will benefit from reduced waits for treatment and wider upgrades to the quality of care the health service is able to offer.”

The £850m investment will go to (source: DHSC): 

  1. Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – £99.5m for a new block in Luton to provide critical and intensive care, as well as a delivery suite and operating theatres.
  2. Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – £69.7m to provide diagnostic and assessment centres in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn to aid rapid diagnosis and assessment of cancer and non-cancerous disease.
  3. Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – £40m to build four new mental health hospital wards in Norwich, providing 80 beds.
  4. South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group – £25.2m to develop and improve primary care services in South Norfolk.
  5. University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust – £97.1m to provide a new purpose built hospital facility in Birmingham, replacing outdated outpatient, treatment and diagnostic accommodation.
  6. United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust – £21.3m to improve patient flow in Boston by developing urgent and emergency care zones in A&E.
  7. Wye Valley NHS Trust – £23.6m to provide new hospital wards in Hereford, providing 72 beds.
  8. University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust – £17.6m to create three new modern wards to improve capacity and patient flow in Stoke, delivering approximately 84 beds for this winter.
  9. Barking, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Groups and North East London NHS Foundation Trust – £17m to develop a new health and wellbeing hub in North East London.
  10. Croydon Health Services NHS Trust – £12.7m to extend and refurbish critical care units at the Croydon University Hospital.
  11. South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System – £57.5m for primary care investment across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.
  12. Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – £41.7m to improve paediatric cardiac services in the North East.
  13. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – £12m to provide a single laboratory information management system across West Yorkshire and Harrogate, covering all pathology disciplines.
  14. Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust – £72.3m to build a new adult mental health inpatient unit in Manchester.
  15. Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust – £33m to provide a new 40 bed low secure unit for people with learning disabilities.
  16. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust – £30.6m to provide a new emergency care campus development at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, incorporating an urgent treatment centre, GP assessment unit and planned investigation unit.
  17. Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group – £18m to improve patient flow in Wirral by improving access via the urgent treatment centre.
  18. Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust – £16.3m to provide emergency and urgent care facilities at Tameside General Hospital in Ashton-under-Lyne.
  19. Isle of Wight NHS Trust – £48m to redesign acute services for Isle of Wight residents.
  20. Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust – £99.9m to build a new women’s and children’s hospital in the centre of the Royal Cornwall Hospital site in Truro.