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No blank cheque ahead of second virus wave, hospitals told

Briefing: 'We understand that the NHS did not get all it asked for from the Treasury'

24 September, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Finance discussions have been taking place at UCLH in Euston Road

HOSPITAL chiefs have been told they will not be given unlimited resources to meet the demands that could be coming due to a second wave of Covid-19, it has emerged.

The alert has seen the chief executive of University College London Hospitals raise concern about government budget restrictions on the NHS.

Professor Marcel Levi said a fixed financial “envelopes” system coming into effect in next month would be “insufficient” to cover the planned expansion of its critical care wards.

Board papers at the hospital in Euston Road have revealed how “the NHS did not get all it asked for from the Treasury”.

And instead hospitals have been told they will have to cover any extra costs incurred by the virus.

Marcel Levi, the chief executive at UCLH

Prof Levi, in his report to the board yesterday (Wednesday), said: “For the past five months UCLH has been fully funded through the NHS’s Covid financial arrangements which were very welcome and which have allowed the Trust to claim funding on the basis of what we have spent.

“For example, additional supplies of PPE to keep staff safe, testing for staff and patients, and the general costs of running our hospitals in a different way during the peak of the crisis. However, from October onwards all NHS providers will be given a fixed budget envelope to live within, and will no longer receive funding to cover actual costs incurred.”

He added: “We do not yet know what our financial envelope will be, but it is likely to be insufficient to fully fund our recovery as well as our strategic capacity expansion plans in relation to critical care.”

UCLH had planned to double the size of it critical care facilities – which includes intensive care – this winter.


Tim Jaggard, the trust’s chief financial officer, added: “It is clear that there is likely to be insufficient funding to cover all of our planned expenditure.”

A briefing from NHS Providers, a body representing hospitals and health care centres, said that it was concerned about “very ambitious assumptions” that there would be a return of private patient income – which is used to plug cuts in NHS funding to hospitals.

Its chief executive Chris Hopson said he had “four specific areas of concern” about the new set up, adding: “Initial, first off, reactions have generally been ones of concern that the allocations look lower than expected and insufficient to cover expected costs.

“We understand that the NHS did not get all it asked for from the Treasury and that this will, by definition, affect how much can be allocated to the frontline. We risk trusts dialling back on what they are currently spending on service recovery and preparing for winter. This is the last thing we want.”

Prof Levi said that a joint project between UCLH and the Francis Crick Institute in Somers Town meant the NHS trust was able to “maintain high volumes of testing” for staff.

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