NHS trusts across England will receive £300 million to upgrade facilities ahead of the winter amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus, Boris Johnson has announced.
The Prime Minister said the additional cash would enable hospitals to maintain essential services and reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection during the coming months.
The funding comes from a £1.5 billion capital building allocation for the NHS set out by Mr Johnson in June.
In all, 117 trusts will benefit from the additional funding which could be used by hospitals to increase A&E capacity, with more treatment cubicles and expanded waiting areas to ease overcrowding and improve infection control.
It could also enable hospitals to increase the provision of same-day emergency care and improve patient flows to help them to better respond to winter pressures and the risks of fresh coronavirus outbreaks.
Officials said the projects would all be completed by the start of 2021 so hospitals would benefit from the upgrades during the peak months of winter.
Mr Johnson said: “These upgrades will help our fantastic NHS prepare for the winter months, helping them to deliver essential services and reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.”
It comes on top of a £3 billion cash injection for the NHS in England – with extra funding also for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – announced last month to help it to cope with the expected winter pressures.
That funding has been earmarked to enable the NHS to continue to use the extra hospital capacity acquired from the independent sector, maintain Nightingale hospitals until the end of March and expand its flu vaccination programme.
Mr Johnson said it was essential that people who needed emergency treatment during the winter should attend hospital, confident they would not become infected with the virus.
“Thanks to the hard work and tireless efforts of NHS staff throughout the pandemic, our A&Es have remained open for the public,” he said.
“It’s vital that those who need emergency treatment this winter access it, and for those who remain concerned about visiting hospitals, let me assure you that the NHS has measures in place to keep people safe.”
Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said while any additional funding was helpful, there were limits to what it could achieve.
“The money is welcome but how do we think we can actually implement what would be building works in existing units whilst remaining safe and efficient – all before any rise in either Covid or non-Covid patients which, if like last winter, may start before the end of October?” he said.