With the changing season, annual concerns are being voiced regarding the potential 'winter crisis' - the effect of the cold weather, especially on the elderly. The Chancellor has announced in the Budget, that the NHS is to get an extra £250 million which will go towards setting up systems which will become a permanent feature of healthcare in the winter. The money is intended as a long-term measure which follows on from the schemes set up last year. The main emphasis being on increased co-operation between health and social services. These systems are also intended to prevent waiting lists growing uncontrollably during the winter, as they have done in the past. The government is priding itself on the continuing fall in waiting lists and times recorded this month.
There have been queries raised by members of opposition parties regarding the validity of these figures; references have been made to the use of separate, 'pending' lists. However, Frank Dobson, after investigation, has insisted that these claims are not valid. Mr Dobson also announced more details of the first year of the NHS Modernisation Fund of £1.2 billion, which will be partly funded from the £31 billion health authority allocation. This will provide: £320 million to cut waiting lists; £266 million to improve primary care; £12 million extra for drug advisory services; £49 million to fund 26 Health Action Zones; £50 million to invest in state of the art information technology; £44 million to spread the availability of NHS Direct and £472m on other modernisation initiatives. In addition to this expenditure, the government intends to provide a further £2.2 billion to spend on buildings and equipment. Specifically this will target the improvement of one quarter of all A&E departments, outpatients departments and the elimination of mixed sex wards. Baroness Hayman also volunteered more than £430m for the funding of NHS research and development.
Sources: Press releases (DoH); Times 4 November
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