Rishi Sunak to spend billions to digitise NHS – Telegraph.co.uk


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Rishi Sunak is preparing to unveil an additional multi-billion pound boost for the NHS following the £36 billion package already announced last month, The Telegraph can disclose.

The Chancellor is expected to use this week’s Budget statement to announce an increase of some £5 billion in the health service’s capital budget, which will include funds for a digital overhaul of the NHS after Sajid Javid revealed that one in 10 trusts still operate on “paper-based systems”.

The latest windfall for the health service, as part of Mr Sunak’s three-year spending review, is also expected to include an additional half-a-billion pounds towards Boris Johnson’s pledge of 48 new hospitals by 2030 and dozens more hospital upgrades.

In total, Mr Sunak is expected to confirm more than £4 billion of funding for new hospitals and hospital upgrades.

Spending to hit record levels

Mr Sunak is also preparing to confirm a continuation of some £12 billion in maintenance funds over the next three years, to help plug a £9.2 billion maintenance backlog.

Overall, official figures are expected to show that day-to-day spending on the NHS will amount to a record 40 per cent of overall sustained departmental spending by next year.

The announcements are likely to lead to further calls for the Government to drive through reforms of the health service to avoid taxpayer funds going to waste. 

The Health Secretary is already setting up an “NHS delivery unit” to oversee an efficiency drive, following pressure from Conservative MPs.

One Cabinet minister warned that “Sajid has got to get a grip” of NHS spending or risk a major public fallout if health service inefficiencies mean that the Government is unable to carry out its plan to divert the proceeds of the new Health and Social Care Levy to the social care system in three years’ time.

Despite last month’s major three-year settlement for the health service, funded by a National Insurance increase, Mr Sunak has come under pressure to provide a major additional handout to fund a digital overhaul of the NHS with a boost to capital spending.

The increase is likely to be billed as part of the Government’s levelling-up agenda. Mr Javid used a speech last month to warn of the need to level up “digital inequalities and embark on the full digitisation that is so essential to the long-term sustainability of health and social care”.

The funds are expected to be used to introduce digital systems where they are not used at all, in addition to replacing out-of-date technology, boosting cyber security and spreading the use of shared digital care records.

“It’s only by allowing colleagues to see patients’ information in one place, regardless of what part of the system they use, that we can have a truly integrated system for health and social care,” Mr Javid said last month. 

The Health Secretary also wants to encourage the rollout of new measures used during the Covid-19 pandemic, which were shown to improve the service offered by medics, including the increased use of digital appointments for those who want them.

NHS trusts have been lobbying for an additional £1.8 billion per year by 2024, the end of the three-year spending review period, which would take the overall NHS capital budget to £10.3 billion. It is understood that Mr Sunak has settled on an increase of about £5 billion over the three years.

Last week, Prof Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, warned MPs that on top of the three-year £36 billion funding settlement billed as funding to clear backlogs in the health service, “we need to think about capital funding as well”.

He added: “That is really important for the long term. Ensuring that we have the capital investment to deliver digital services, put them in place and ensure that our estate and our beds are fit for purpose is really important. Obviously, that is a discussion we are having with [the] Government.”

The health service has also been lobbying for an increase in spending on Health Education England (HEE), the quango that co-ordinates the training of doctors. Prof Powis and Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of the NHS, claimed that failing to increase the body’s budget would be a “real concern”. 

Prof Powis said: “HEE supports the training of all clinicians... Unless we get that supply right, we will be in a perpetual circle of worrying about the future workforce. The funding of HEE is absolutely critical.”

Separately, Mr Sunak is expected to announce a £3 billion “skills revolution”, which the Chancellor said will give people “the skills they need to earn more and get on in life”.

The funding will be directed towards post-16 education, as well as adults in later life. Mr Sunak will announce that the number of “boot camps” for skills such as artificial intelligence, cyber security and nuclear will be quadrupled.

Some £1.6 billion will go towards additional classroom hours for up to 100,000 16- to 19-year-olds studying for T-levels, the technical-based qualifications

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