The UK's autumn budget was announced today, with an emergency £350 million ($466m) boost earmarked for the NHS to help see the health service through the difficult winter period.
Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced the measure as part of the government's yearly budget, which outlines its spending plans for the next year.
In his speech, Hammond pledged an extra £2.8 billion ($3.7bn) in one-off funding to the health service to help it cope with immediate pressures up to 2020.
This will be broken down into separate payments, starting with £350m this year, which has been made available to NHS hospitals and trusts right away, £1.6bn ($2.1bn) in 2018/19 and the remaining £850m ($1.1m) in 2019/20.
"The NHS is under pressure right now," the Chancellor admitted.
"I am therefore - exceptionally, and outside the spending review process - making an additional commitment of resource funding of £2.8bn to the NHS in England."
The news came after the NHS's chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS needed an extra £4bn ($5.3bn) next year - a sum the government had already ruled out.
The £2.8bn funding will be on top of a £9bn ($12bn) increase already planned to the NHS budget from the Conservative government's original spending plans for 2015 to 2020.
Hammond also committed to funding a pay rise for NHS nurses, midwives and paramedics - once wider pay reform has been negotiated. Many NHS salaries have been frozen or capped since 2010.
The nation's frontline staff "deserve our deepest gratitude", Hammond said. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is currently negotiating pay changes with NHS staff and is expected to recommend an appropriate wage increase in 'due course'.
"If the Health Secretary's talks bear fruit," Mr Hammond added, "I will protect patient services by providing additional funding for such a settlement."
In addition, Hammond promised £3.5bn ($4.7bn) for redesigning NHS services and turning around struggling NHS hospitals by 2022, taking the total new NHS funding promised in the budget to £6.3bn ($8.4bn).
NHS officials and staff groups had a mixed response to the budget, describing it as an 'opportunity missed', with funding lower than they had asked for and emergency resources for winter delivered 'very late'.
NHS England's chairman, Sir Malcolm Grant, described the extra money as 'welcome', saying it would fill some of the gaps in NHS funding.
"However, we can no longer avoid the difficult debate about what it is possible to deliver for patients with the money available," he added, saying NHS England will debate the issue at its board meeting next week.
Source: The Independent
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