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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 16:00 GMT


£100m package for modern NHS

£100m will go to improving A&E and primary care

Health Secretary Frank Dobson has announced a £100m programme to modernise Accident and Emergency departments and provide walk-in primary care clinics.

He said £70 to £80m will be spent in the next year on A&E departments, leading to "the biggest programme of investment in A&E services in the history of A&Es".

Some £30m will go on walk-in pilot projects involving GPs and nurse practitioners and other primary care schemes such as out of hours services.

This could mean primary care services are placed in shopping centres and high streets around the country.

Mr Dobson said this would improve access to primary care and help create "a new NHS for the new century".

The money, which is for NHS services in England, is part of the extra £430m for the NHS announced in last week's Budget.

Admissions wards

Mr Dobson said the extra money for A&E improvements would be in addition to £30m already announced to modernise 79 units around the country.

It will be spent on setting up special areas for children, easier access to X-ray, pathology and pharmacy services, better layout of departments and video surveillance and alarm systems to improve staff and patient security.

Example of schemes likely to be funded under the new A&E initiative include:

  • Extension of children's A&E at the Royal Liverpool Infirmary
  • Improvements at Sheffield Children's Hospital
  • In Luton more resuscitation facilities and close circuit TV - £250,000 worth of improvements intended at the Royal London in the East End and a similar amount for the Mayday Hospital, Croydon
  • Large-scale improvements intended at Southampton General
  • A new observation unit and better facilities for GP co-operatives planned for Frenchay Hospital, Bristol.

Some casualty units may also have an NHS Direct link-up so patients can get health advice while they are waiting.

NHS Direct, which will be extended around the country by the year 2000, is a nurse-led information phoneline.

The new money will also be spent on ensuring most hospitals around the country have admissions or observations units so that patients do not have to wait on trolleys for admission to a hospital bed.

He said that when Labour came into power, only half of all hospitals had admissions units.

The government intends that all hospitals which can have them do have them.

Mr Dobson also announced the setting up of a team of professionals to look into best practice in the NHS, led by Mike Lambert, an A&E consultant at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

And he said NHS Direct may be extended to cover the Internet with a special NHS Online service offering access to health information.

Shadow health secretary Ann Widdecombe said there was "very little new in the statement".

She said much of Mr Dobson's statement recycled old news about modernising the health service and NHS Direct.

"How many times is he going to announce the Modernisation Fund and NHS Direct?" she asked, adding that the government could save money by abandoning its politically driven waiting list initiative.

She also wanted to know how much of the Modernisation Fund would be used to fund the nurses' pay award and whether the admissions wards would reduce capacity elsewhere in the NHS.

The NHS Confederation, which represents health authorities and trusts, welcomed the money, but said there were "many pressing demands" on the NHS's capital budget.

It called on the Treasury to review all capital funding for the NHS.

The British Medical Association also said the money was good news.

But a spokeswoman added that it needed to be backed up by extra consultant posts for the new admissions wards and extra nurses for both admissions wards and A&E departments.

The British Association for Accident and Emergency Medicine said past A&E underfunding was part of a "whole systems" problem, which required more resources for other areas, such as acute beds, and staff.


Earlier in the day, Scottish health minister Sam Galbraith announced a £24.5m package aimed at modernising the NHS in Scotland.

The money, which will be spent over the next three years, is part of an extra £37m for Scotland announced in last week's Budget.

The £24.5m includes:

  • £5m to develop the use of telemedicine and bring specialist care closer to patients in the community
  • £4m for electronic prescribing between GPs and chemists
  • £2.5m to pilot the NHS Direct nurse-led phoneline in Scotland
  • £2m to develop 'minimal invasive' cancer care at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital
  • £11m to modernise Scotland's A&E departments.

The remaining £12.5m of the £37m will be spent on new cancer treatment machines.

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