No increased budget for NHS as winter sets in

The latest emergency services data make grim reading: and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine is warning things are set to get even worse, after Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement came up with no extra cash to address the growing capacity gaps in the NHS.

The RCEM (doing work that really should be done by NHS England, NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation, which are supposed to speak up for the organisations they represent) had pressed hard in the run-up to the Autumn Statement for more funding to enable trusts to deliver on the promise last January of 5,000 extra beds (and ‘most of’ a promised 800 more ambulances on the road) this winter. They got nothing.

The commitments to expand capacity were prominently included in NHS England’s Delivery plan for recovering urgent and emergency care services, published with a fanfare in January.

The 5,000 beds promise was even repeated by the latest Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins on December 3.  But despite her warm words the tightening cash straitjacket on trusts and Integrated Care Boards have meant that ministers and health chiefs have not only failed to deliver many of the main commitments, but the situation has actually got worse.

The most recent statistics show that there were 100,046 general and acute beds available in England when the promise to open 5,000 more was made: but by October there were 2,675 FEWER beds, even taking into account 2,224 “escalation” beds.

Full story in The Lowdown, 11 December 2023