Boris Johnson announces £3bn for NHS fearing coronavirus second wave just months away

At a Downing Street news conference on Friday, the Prime Minister will say the funds are available immediately to keep the temporary Nightingale hospitals ready and secure private hospital beds for NHS patients with serious cases of the infection. He is also expected to step up his appeal for Britons to make a safe return to factories and offices with the Government set to drop the advice to work from home where necessary. Speaking ahead of the announcement, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of the British people, the virus is under control and we have eased restrictions in a cautious, phased way.

“But the Prime Minister is clear that now is not the time for complacency, and we must make sure our NHS is battle ready for winter.

“Tomorrow, he will set out a broad package of measures to protect against both a possible second wave, and to ease winter pressures and keep the public safe.”

Mr Johnson’s cash injection for the NHS in England will also help ensure hospitals and clinics can continue to carry out routine medical treatments even if the rate of coronavirus infections rises again during colder weather.

A new chapter of his COVID-19 recovery strategy “road map” will be published today to reassure the public that returning to work can be done safely.

The flu vaccine is currently free to those deemed most at risk, including pregnant women, people aged over 65, carers and primary school children, with health chiefs due to set out expanded eligibility criteria shortly.

The Government is also promising extra funds for the NHS’s enhanced discharge arrangements to ensure patients can be quickly and safely discharged from hospitals and to free up beds for other patients.

Despite the slump in new coronavirus infections following the national lockdown, ministers are aware this winter will present further challenges because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and impact of other seasonal infections such as flu.

They are also concerned that a rise in flu cases will put a strain on the NHS Test-and-Trace programme because flu and other virus can have similar symptoms to coronavirus.

A new Government advertising campaign will be launched shortly to increase awareness of eligibility for testing and access to tests at local walk-in sites.

Officials said ministers have been studying a series of possible winter scenarios to inform planning and assessing experience of healthcare systems overseas.

A series of exercises to “stress test” the readiness of the NHS for the winter and an audit of supplies of personal protective equipment are also being undertaken.



Waste of money! Warning Royal Navy's £3bn aircraft carriers could be ‘sitting ducks'

It comes after the National Audit Office (NAO) said the Navy had just one supply ship able to keep the Carrier Strike force stocked with food and ammunition while on operations.

The Whitehall spending watchdog warned this could hamper the Royal Navy’s ability to operate its two new aircraft carriers.

Tobias Ellwood, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, warned that the aircraft carriers “it’ll be hotched and potched, only available for short operational journeys” without any support ships. 

He told The Telegraph: “It will be for display purposes only and that’s a very expensive toy.”

He compared it to “getting all these trains to arrive at the station at the same time” and warned of further delays.

The report also warned the new Crowsnest airborne radar systems, a crucial part of its defences for the new carriers, were running 18 months late further diminishing its capabilities during its first two years.

The NAO published its latest report on the vast “Carrier Strike” project which includes HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales warships.

The NAO report said that “MoD has made slow progress” developing three new support ships, which are crucial to Carrier Strike’s operation.

HMS Queen Elizabeth.

HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Image: Getty)

HMS Queen Elizabeth.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is one of the new aircraft carriers. (Image: Getty)

A competition to build three new vessels was scrapped due to concerns about value for money, delaying their introduction by up to three years.

The report added: “It has only one ship able to resupply the carriers with the supplies they need, such as ammunition and food.

“The MoD has long been aware that this will restrict Carrier Strike, and the cancellation of a recent competition to build new supply ships – because of concerns over value for money – mean they will not be available until the late 2020s.”

It also the MoD had yet to commit the funding required for enough Lightning II fighter jets to sustain the carriers over their expected 50-year operating life.

READ MORE: UK bolsters Royal Navy presence in Gibraltar with two new vessels

 

HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The NAO report raises concerns for the aircraft carriers. (Image: Getty)

It warned the NAO faced a “tight timetable” if it was to achieve its next milestone of developing a “full operating capability” – with two Lighting II squadrons operating from one of the carriers – by 2023.

It said the MoD had long been aware the lack of support ships would restrict the force’s “operational freedom” but had yet to come up with a solution.

The MoD had originally planned to acquire 138 Lightning IIs, to sustain Carrier Strike to the 2060s, it has so far only committed to buying 48.

But since 2017, the approved cost of the Lightning II project has risen from £9.1 billion to £10.5 billion, due to capability upgrades, with further increases expected.

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HMS Prince of Wales.

HMS Prince of Wales in Liverpool. (Image: Getty)

At the same time, the report revealed that the MoD had failed to develop an airlift capacity to support the force and was relying on ageing Merlin Mk 4 helicopters.

The helicopters were supposed to go out of service at the end of 2021. 

Overall, it warned the MoD may not have made sufficient provision in future years’ budgets to reflect the full costs of operating the carriers.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “It [The MoD] must pay much greater attention to the supporting capabilities needed to make full use of Carrier Strike.

 

HMS Prince of Wales.

The NAO report raises the raising costs to the taxpayer. (Image: Getty)

“The MoD also needs to get a firmer grip on the future costs of Carrier Strike. By failing to understand their full extent, it risks adding to the financial strain on a defence budget that is already unaffordable.”

In response, an MoD spokesman, said: “Carrier Strike is a complex challenge, which relies on a mix of capabilities and platforms.

“We remain committed to investing in this capability, which demonstrates the UK’s global role.

“Despite the disruptions of Covid-19, the Carrier Strike group is on track for its first operational deployment.”