HOSPITAL administrators are warning about plans to curtail additional bed openings due to a lack of funds, particularly during the winter months.
NHS Providers, which represents managers, conveyed this message following the Treasury’s rejection of a plea for an additional £1 billion to cover strike-related costs.
The group also mentioned a pause in workforce recruitment to address staff shortages, the BBC reported.
However, the government asserted that winter planning remains on track. It pointed to the successful establishment of 10,000 “virtual” hospital beds, where doctors monitor patients remotely, and also progress in adding 5,000 new permanent hospital beds, representing a five per cent increase in numbers.
A department of health and social care spokesman said, “We recognise the challenges the NHS faces over the coming months, which is why we started preparing for winter earlier than ever.”
The cost of industrial action to the health service is estimated at £1bn this year, but the Treasury confirmed last week only an additional £100 million would be allocated to the NHS to cover the cost of strikes.
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, expressed “palpable frustration” at the Treasury’s reluctance to offer additional funding.
He noted that it would be “really difficult” to address the growing number of people waiting for treatment, which the government has identified as a crucial priority. Figures published last week revealed a record 7.8 million on the waiting list.
Hartley conveyed a “sense of dread” regarding the possibility of doctors initiating additional strikes as winter approached. The previous year had witnessed record wait times for ambulances and in A&E departments.