A pledge by Boris Johnson to spend an extra £1.8bn on NHS infrastructure and equipment has been dismissed by Labour as an inadequate response to years of under-investment.
The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said the NHS needed an extra £6bn to address the backlog of repairs generated by successive cuts to health budgets made over many years.
Health experts also claimed the amount proposed by the prime minister was “a drop in the the ocean” compared with what was needed.
Johnson used an article in the Sunday Times to announce the government would spent an extra £1.8bn – on top of the long-term spending increase for the NHS announced last year worth an extra £20bn by 2023 – on “vital new kit” and 20 hospital upgrades.
He did not give details, but Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said in a separate article in the Sun on Sunday that the money would pay for “new intensive care wards, children’s units, and new mental health facilities – from Cornwall to Newcastle”, as well as essential maintenance.
The announcement, which is due to be fleshed out by No 10 with further details on Monday, shows Johnson is determined to be seen to be honouring the promise on the Vote Leave bus in 2016 to use savings from Brexit to deliver an extra £350m a week for the NHS.
This slogan was widely regarded as dishonest because it significantly overstated the UK’s contribution to the EU and it ignored mainstream economic forecasts that Brexit would result in lower growth and hence less money for the NHS.
In an interview on Sky, Ashworth said hospitals had been underfunded by the Conservatives for many years. “It means today that our hospitals, our NHS is facing a backlog of £6bn-worth of repairs putting patient safety, patient lives at risk every day. It is no wonder the top adviser to Boris Johnson [Dominic Cummings] says Tory MPs don’t care about the NHS,” said Ashworth. Read more