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Tuesday, November 3, 1998 Published at 20:21 GMT


New cash will 'ward off a crisis'

Doctors have welcomed the new cash

Health workers have claimed the extra £250m for the NHS announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown's has saved the service from possible crisis this winter.

The cash is designed to help the service through the winter months, when demand is traditionally highest.

The British Medical Association welcomed the cash, but warned a severe winter could still lead to serious problems.

[ image: Dr Ian Bogle: 'we need a mild winter']
Dr Ian Bogle: 'we need a mild winter'
BMA council chairman Dr Ian Bogle said: "While any additional money to enable the NHS to tackle the workload over the next few months will help, patients, doctors and nurses can only hope for another mild winter, as a more cruel winter could undoubtedly result in major problems for our hospitals and our primary care services.

"Although the NHS is learning to cope with winter pressures through better strategic planning, we do need to move to a health service which has enough funds to cope with not only the unexpected variations in demands for emergency care, but also the planned care that is needed all year round."

The NHS Confederation, which represents health authorities and trusts, said the new cash followed soon after a survey by the confederation had found that more than 90% of NHS trusts believed additional resources were needed for management of winter pressures.

[ image: Stephen Thornton: 'the government has listened']
Stephen Thornton: 'the government has listened'
Stephen Thornton, NHS Confederation chief executive, said: "We are delighted that the government has taken notice of our members' concerns.

"Trusts would have struggled to get through a bad winter without this cash injection in spite of extensive planning.

"The quality of patient care is always paramount. With this additional money it is now unlikely that many patients will face lengthy waits for surgery and delays in admission during a normal winter."

Karen Caines, director of the Institute of Health Services Management, said: "With patients already beginning to wait on trolleys in casualty departments, the government's allocation of an additional £250m to help provide a decent quality service through the winter is very welcome."

Patient group positive

Joyce Robbins, a council member for the Patient's Association, also welcomed the cash.

"This has got to be good," she said, and added that the present government was better at resourcing the NHS than its predecessor.

However, the money needed to be carefully targetted to be most effective, she warned.

"They pour money in, but nobody has control over what happens to it. There is no overall control of resources in the NHS - it's all based on little fiefdoms in trusts," she said.

But the Royal College of Nursing said the money would not solve the crisis in nurse recruitment.

[ image: Christine Hancock:
Christine Hancock: "Recruitment crisis"
Christine Hancock, the college's general secretary, said: "It's good news that the winter crisis is being recognised but what's really needed is extra nurses to cope with the extra patients over winter.

"This £250m will do nothing to sort out the crisis in nurse shortages that is affecting patient care across the country."

Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of the health services union Unison, said the new cash was "an attempt to plug a gap."

He said: "As we come towards winter there are a lot more problems, particularly with elderly patients, and because there is insufficient cash many hospitals have got dire problems.

"This is good news. I hope it does go some way to helping a hard pressed health care team."

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