Coronavirus: Supporting the NHS

LAST UPDATED: 15TH APRIL AT 11:50AM

The over-riding object is to protect life and protect our NHS – we have a plan, based on the expertise of world-leading scientists, and we have already bought valuable time for our NHS to prepare. We are taking all of the action necessary to ensure the NHS has what it needs to deal with Covid-19. This includes more than £14 billion from the Coronavirus emergency response fund, which will go towards public services, including the NHS and local authorities involved in the fight against Coronavirus. The NHS will be at the frontline of our efforts against Covid-19, and we will ensure that whatever it needs, it will get.

We are doing this by:

  • Providing any extra resource the NHS needs to tackle the virus, with over £14 billion from the Coronavirus emergency response fund for public services, including the NHS and local authorities involved in the fight against Coronavirus. This support builds on the initial £5 billion announced at the Budget. We are helping our public services with:
    • £6.6 billion to support our health services
    • £1.6 billion for local authorities
    • £0.9 billion to cover extra measures such as home delivery of food and medicines to the most vulnerable people
    • £3.5 billion to ensure vital rail services continue to operate for those who rely upon them for essential journeys
    • £2 billion for the devolved administrations.
  • Providing £1.3 billion to help the NHS discharge patients who no longer need care more quickly, freeing up vital space. Taken together, the Government has provided £2.9 billion to support local services and hospital discharge, reinforcing care for the vulnerable, and meaning that those who are strong enough can leave hospital more quickly. This will help to free up 15,000 hospital beds across England and ensure more staff have capacity to treat people needed urgent care, including those being cared for with coronavirus.17

  • Opened a new temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel centre in London – with more to come – so we can increase NHS capacity to treat more patients, fight the virus and save lives.

    • The NHS Nightingale Hospital in East London is comprised of two wards, each of 2,000 people.This hospital has been built in just nine days, with help from the military, to make sure that we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support that they need.

    • NHS Nightingale Birmingham will have an initial 500 beds, but with the capacity to increase beds up to 2,000 if needed.

    • NHS Nightingale Manchester will have an initial 500 beds, but with capacity to increase beds up to 1,000 if needed.

    • NHS Nightingale Bristol will have an initial 500 beds, but with capacity to increase beds up to 1,000 if needed.20

    • NHS Nightingale Harrogate will have 500 beds.

  • Working with British manufacturers to support the production of essential medical equipment for the NHS, such as ventilators. To date, there are more than 8,000 ventilators available to NHS patients – more than when the outbreak began – and there are another 8,000 expected from existing international manufacturers in the coming weeks. The first thousands of new ventilators will roll off the production line and be delivered to the NHS next week.

    • As well as increasing capacity for ventilation, which supports the patients worse affected, we're also increasing the capacity to provide oxygen to affected patients at an earlier stage in the process of the disease, helping to avert the deterioration of their condition. A team led by UCL working with Mercedes Benz will produce 10,000 new CPAP devices to support affected patients.

  • Ensuring the NHS has the support and the people it needs to fight the virus. We have called for extra NHS staff to help the fight against Covid-19, including 65,000 former nurses and doctors to re-join the NHS. So far, 20,000 retired NHS professionals have signed up to re-join the NHS in its fight against the coronavirus. 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses will also move to the frontline to help our efforts.

  • Introducing a new five-point plan to significantly increase testing, so that NHS staff can have the tests they need. We are expanding testing to critical NHS staff, and their families, to help ensure they can stay in work if they test negative, and to get them back to work as quickly as possible if they have symptoms. Once widespread testing is available, we will test critical NHS staff and other critical key workers repeatedly, including some weekly, to keep them safe and ensure they do not spread the virus. As we ramp up we will expand testing to all NHS staff, and critical key workers, then to all key workers, and then to the whole population.

  • Launching a mental health hotline for NHS staff – as we are doing everything we can to support our incredible NHS workers as they care for people through this global health emergency. NHS staff will be able to call or text a free number staffed by thousands of specially trained volunteers, to receive support and advice for the pressures they face every day during the global health emergency. Anyone who requires further help will be signposted to other services ranging from practical and financial assistance through to specialist bereavement and psychological support.

  • Launching a mental health hotline for NHS staff – as we are doing everything we can to support our incredible NHS workers as they care for people through this global health emergency. NHS staff will be able to call or text a free number staffed by thousands of specially trained volunteers, to receive support and advice for the pressures they face every day during the global health emergency. Anyone who requires further help will be signposted to other services ranging from practical and financial assistance through to specialist bereavement and psychological support.

  • Bolstering NHS 111 to provide advice to people who need it. While people with mild symptoms should not call NHS 111, we need to make sure the service is available for those who need it, with severe symptoms or if they are not getting better after 7 days. Around 500 additional call handlers have already been trained to staff the NHS 111 service, representing an increase of 20%. In addition, the new NHS 111 online service is also available to provide advice and will free up call handlers’ time, so they are able to prioritise those experiencing symptoms.

  • Extending visas for NHS frontline workers and their families for a year - demonstrating how valued overseas NHS staff are to the UK. Doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will have them automatically extended for one year, free of charge. By giving them the peace of mind that they do not need to apply for a visa extension, this will allow those at the frontline to focus fully on combatting coronavirus and saving lives.

  • Writing off over £13 billion of debt for NHS providers, freeing them up to investing in maintaining vital services. The changes will provide much needed financial support during this unprecedented viral pandemic, as well as laying secure foundations for the longer-term commitments set out last year to support the NHS to become more financially sustainable. This package is launched in combination with a simpler internal payment system to help NHS trusts in dealing with the Covid-19 response, which was agreed with NHS England last week.

  • Working with international partners to tackle the virus. We will provide a contribution of up to £150 million to the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, to help the effort to stop further transmission, including into the UK.

  • Placing up to 20,000 Armed Forces personnel at a higher state of readiness to support our vital public services, if required. Up to 10,000 personnel are being placed at a higher readiness, so they are able to assist with supporting public services. This is on top of the 10,000 already held at higher readiness.

  • Training 150 military personnel to drive oxygen tankers in order to support the NHS. These personnel began training on Monday 23 March 2020 - ensuring that the NHS always has the resources it needs to deliver world class care to those most in need.

  • Providing free car parking for our NHS and social care workers. These workers will be able to park in on street parking bays and council owned carparks without having to worry about cost or time restrictions.

  • Pledging an extra £300 million in funding to ensure community pharmacies can continue to carry out essential services during the coronavirus outbreak. The advanced funding injection will support pharmacies to provide critical services to protect community health, including supplying medicines and providing medical advice to patients, during a period of unprecedented demand.

  • Waived import taxes on medical equipment crucial to the fight against coronavirus – reducing red tape to ensure equipment gets to frontline health workers faster. NHS suppliers will no longer have to pay customs duty and import VAT on specific medical goods coming from outside the EU, including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing.

Working towards a vaccine:

  • Researching the virus to look for cures and better testing methods. We have provided £40 million of new funding to enable further rapid research in COVID-19, with the aim of increasing the capacity and capability of testing and surveillance.

    • The first British patient has been put into a randomised trial for a treatment of coronavirus. Experts are rapidly getting a better understanding of coronavirus, and how to treat it. Trials of a possible vaccine are expected to start within a month.

    • Working to bring forward a brand-new type of antibody test – which can tell people if they’ve had the virus and are immune. More testing is critical to stopping this virus and getting life back to normal as soon as possible. We’re in negotiations for a brand new type of antibody test – which can tell if a person has had the virus and is immune. We will buy hundreds of thousands.

    • Investing £20 million to discover breakthroughs that will help the UK respond to Coronavirus and future pandemics, and save lives. We are backing the UK’s leading clinicians and scientists to map how the virus spreads and behaves by using whole genome sequencing – which will help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions.

  • Establishing three national clinical trials to continue our efforts to find a vaccine for coronavirus. The trials will each cover a major stage of the disease – primary care, hospital care and critical care – and are looking at the effect of existing drugs and steroids, repurposed for the treatment of Covid-19. One of the trials, called Recovery, is the largest of its kind in the world, with 926 patients involved.33

  • Donating more than any other country in the world to the international coalition trying to find a coronavirus vaccine. We have donated more than £210 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is supporting the development of vaccines that will be available throughout the world, including to the NHS at the lowest possible price.34

  • Asking people to share their coronavirus symptoms in order to help the NHS coordinate its response and gain a better understanding of the virus. People with potential symptoms are asked to complete the NHS Coronavirus Status Checker to tell the NHS about their experience. The information gathered will help the NHS to plan its response to the outbreak, indicating when and where more resources like oxygen, ventilators and additional staff might be needed and will provide valuable insight into the development and progression of the virus across the country.

Protecting our NHS from unnecessary pressure:

  • Taking action in our prisons to prevent thousands of prisoners from catching coronavirus so we can protect our NHS. We will temporarily release selected low-risk offenders who are already near the end of their sentences, on strict conditions and subject to electronic tagging, in order to avoid thousands of prisoners becoming infected and overwhelming the NHS.
    • Public protection is paramount. No high-risk offenders, including those convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone of national security concern or a danger to children, will be considered for release, nor any prisoners who have not served at least half their custodial term. Additionally, no offender convicted of Covid-19 related offences, including coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment, will be eligible.
    • Ensuring prisoners abide by the conditions of their release. Prisoners who pass the stringent criteria for release will be subject to strict conditions, and will be electronically monitored, including with GPS tags, to enforce the requirement to stay at home. They can be immediately recalled to prison for breaching these conditions or committing further offences. The releases will be phased over time but can start from next week.
    • Limiting the spread of the virus among the prison population, protecting our NHS from having to treat more patients. Prisons are moving towards single-cell accommodation as much as possible across the estate – to limit the spread of infection and the number of deaths. This follows public health advice that prisons present a unique environment where rapid outbreaks of the virus could place a significant strain on local NHS services.