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£1.8bn NHS boost from Boris Johnson ‘not new money’

Photo opportunity: Boris Johnson with
a member of the Pilgrim Hospital staff PICTURE: AP

THE new prime minister has been accused of misleading voters over a promised £1.8billion cash injection for the National Health Service.

Boris Johnson said his latest high-profile announcement represented genuine ‘new money’ for the service. But experts said ministers were simply releasing £1billion that was previously blocked.

The Nuffield Trust said NHS trusts had been piling up surpluses to invest in things such as capital projects but had been unable to do so due to spending caps, which have now been raised.

A spokesman said: ‘Trusts aren’t going to be jumping up and down because of this new money. They’ll be more like spending it on something they wanted to do earlier this year but were unable to because of expenditure limits.’

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘Boris Johnson has misled the public and our NHS staff. It is now clear this is not new money but funds already earmarked for hospitals which ministers previously blocked.’

Downing Street insisted the money was new, with £850million earmarked for 20 hospital upgrades and £1billion for capital spending. However, the prime minister’s official spokesman acknowledged some of the money would ‘allow existing upgrades to proceed’.

Speaking during a visit to the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire — one of the hospitals set to benefit from the increase — Mr Johnson said the £1.8billion was ‘part of a national programme that the NHS asked for and I want to stress this is new money’.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust think tank, said: ‘This is a welcome down-payment on the staggering £6billion needed to clear the backlog of NHS maintenance but it will only be a fraction of what it would cost to really upgrade 20 hospitals.’

The row came as health secretary Matt Hancock issued a fresh warning to rebel Tory MPs they cannot stop Mr Johnson taking Britain out of the EU in a no-deal Brexit on October 31. He said pro-EU MPs had failed to muster enough support in Commons votes last month.

■ A POLL found the majority of Scots now favour independence. The Lord Ashcroft poll found 46 per cent support the move and 43 per cent are against. The study found 47 per cent felt there should be a second referendum in the next two years, with 45 per cent against. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘This is a phenomenal poll for the independence movement.’ She said the case for independence was growing as Scotland is ‘dragged towards a no-deal Brexit’.