The NHS is already short of over £1bn of funding ahead of winter

The NHS is more than £1 billion short of the money it needs heading into winter, with concerns that it is not adequately prepared for a second Covid wave on top of the usual winter demand, according to the Guardian.

The funding gap raises questions over statements made earlier in the year by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who said that the NHS would be given “whatever resources it needs” to deal with the pandemic.

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What does the deficit mean for the NHS?

Hospitals across England have been left with holes of up to £20 million in their budgets, and medical practitioners are concerned that this is impacting their ability to prepare for the annual winter crisis, alongside the threat of Covid.

The funding gap for the NHS in London alone is thought to be up to £200 million.

Hospitals in Stockport, London, and Greater Manchester have all publicly raised concerns about the issue, with the Royal Stoke hospital accusing NHS England of making “a clear and obvious error” in allocating its funding.

How has this happened?

It is thought that the funding gap has appeared because NHS England, which distributes funding to hospital trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), was given less than the amount of money it requested from the Treasury.

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Central government has provided over £210 billion so far toward minimising the health and economic impact of the pandemic.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told the Guardian that the issue is a “dismal reminder that the NHS has now suffered from 10 years of acute underfunding, understaffing and bed cuts.”

He added, “Ministers promised the NHS would get whatever it needs. They now need to deliver on their promise to avoid a winter of misery for patients.”

Speaking to the Guardian, senior policy analyst at healthcare think tank, the Nuffield Trust, Sally Gainsbury, said, “This is a worrying situation. Already, in some areas, the lack of certainty over how much money is left has made the already unenviable task of preparing for the second wave of Covid-19 cases more difficult.

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“Our highly skilled clinicians and managers are throwing everything they have into coping with the second wave of this pandemic, but the last thing they need is to be distracted by budgetary constraints or the threat of financial penalties.”