Boris Johnson heaps praise on 'best of Britain' NHS as he unveils cash boost
Boris Johnson has praised the NHS as the "very best of Britain" as he vowed to channel a £1.8bn cash boost into the health service's frontline.
The Prime Minister said the new funding for the NHS would result in "more beds, new wards, and extra life-saving equipment", with 20 hospitals set to share £850m of extra cash to improve facilities and equipment.
But Labour warned that the money "falls significantly short" after years of "smash and grab" raids on hospital maintenance budgets.
Unveiling the cash boost ahead of a trip to a Lincolnshire hospital on Monday, Mr Johnson said: "The NHS is always there for us – free at the point of use for everyone in the country.
"With our doctors and nurses working tirelessly day in day out, this treasured institution truly showcases the very best of Britain.
"That’s why I made it my immediate task to make sure frontline services have the funding they need, to make a real difference to the lives of NHS staff, and above all, of patients."
He added: "Today I’m delivering on this promise with a £1.8 billion cash injection – meaning more beds, new wards, and extra life-saving equipment to ensure patients continue to receive world-class care.
"It’s time to face up to this challenge and make sure the NHS receives the funds it needs, to continue being the best healthcare service in the world."
Downing Street said the money would come on top of the £20bn-a-year NHS spending increase by 2023/24 signed off by Mr Johnson's predecessor Theresa May, with the additional funds resulting in a 30% annual increase in the NHS's capital budget, which is used to fund buildings, equipment and technology.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the cash would be a "significant start to the much needed capital investment" that would allow frontline staff to "care for their patients in modern facilities with state of the art equipment".
But Labour warned that the money "falls significantly short of what’s needed to provide the quality, safe care to patients after years of Tory cuts".
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Tory ministers have repeatedly cut capital investment budgets in recent years. These smash and grab raids have meant over £4 billion slashed and seen the NHS repair bill spiral to £6 billion putting patient safety seriously at risk."
Ben Gershlick, senior economist at the Health Foundation think tank said the funding boost would be "welcome" - but warned that many hospital trusts still faced a significant backlog of repairs.
"Given the scale of underinvestment in NHS buildings, equipment and technology in recent years, this level of funding will only scratch the surface and will not close the gap in health care capital spending between England and comparable countries," he said.
"Even after this additional money, there remains a major risk to the quality of patient care posed by deteriorating facilities, out of date infrastructure and a shortage of equipment."