£17 million for Black Country and Staffordshire hospitals to prepare for second wave of virus
Hospitals across the region have received more than £17 million to upgrade facilities ahead of a potential second wave of coronavirus.
Boris Johnson said the cash would go towards improving facilities at NHS trusts, enabling them to maintain essential services should a second wave of Covid-19 lead to a surge in demand.
It comes after parts of the Black Country saw a spike in virus cases in recent weeks, while one trust chief in the region warned of a potential shortage of medical supplies over the winter months.
Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley is to get £3m for its new emergency department, which bosses hope will be up and running by the end of the year.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust will receive £4.1m for upgrades to the Manor's A&E department, while Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has been awarded £4m.
The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust is getting £1.72m for work at the emergency department at New Cross Hospital. University Hospitals North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs Stafford's County Hospital, is in line for £4.3m.
Expanded waiting areas
The PM has moved to assure people that it is safe to visit emergency departments, after patient numbers fell drastically during the early stages of the pandemic.
He said: "These upgrades will help our fantastic NHS prepare for the winter months, helping them to deliver world-leading services and reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.
"Thanks to the hard work and tireless efforts of NHS staff throughout the pandemic, our A&Es have remained open for the public.
"It’s vital that those who need emergency treatment this winter access it, and for those who remain concerned about visiting hospitals, let me assure you that the NHS has measures in place to keep people safe."
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Hospitals can use the funding to expand waiting areas to reduce overcrowding, and increase the number of treatment cubicles available to patients to boost capacity.
The provision of same-day emergency care could also be expanded to help hospitals to respond to winter pressures and the risk of a second wave of the virus.
In Dudley the cash is being used for extra work to the £20.3m A&E revamp at Russells Hall Hospital.
Diane Wake, chief executive for the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, said the new two-storey build will link to the emergency department to provide combined assessment facilities and same day emergency assessment and care.
This will enable existing assessment facilities to relocate, freeing up more than 60 beds to help with winter pressures and safe management of Covid-19, she added.
Chief operating officer Karen Kelly said the new funding would go towards a "radical redesign" of the area that will improve patient flow.
Tory MPs welcome funding
The funding has been welcomed by Conservative politicians from across the region.
Marco Longhi, the MP for Dudley North, said: "This funding to upgrade A&E across the trust will ensure that we are in the best possible position for the challenges that the winter months may bring."
Dudley North MP Mike Wood said the cash would "make a big difference to A&E patients and help Russells Hall to cope with increased demand this coming winter".
Councillor Wendy Thompson, leader of the Conservative Group and Health Scrutiny Panel member on Wolverhampton Council, said the cash for New Cross Hospital would enable "more patients to be treated in a safe and more effective manner".
She added: "This investment is most welcome, and I look forward to further government funding into both the Royal Wolverhampton and the NHS more widely over the coming years."
Wolverhampton North East MP Jane Stevenson said the investment proved the Government was committed to delivering record levels of funding for the NHS.
Walsall North MP Eddie Hughes, who lobbied the Health Secretary for extra cash, said the funding boost for Walsall Manor was "great news".
"We don't know if the number of Covid-19 cases will increase when we approach winter, but we must be prepared for that," he added.
West Bromwich East MP Nicola Richards, said Sandwell's share of the pot would "help prepare our A&E ready for winter".
A total of 117 trusts have received a share of £300m in funding, with the majority of the projects due to be completed by the start of 2021 so hospitals benefit during the peak winter months.
Last month the Government announced separate funding of £3bn for the NHS, which will enable extra capacity afforded by the Nightingale hospitals to remain in place until the end of March.
Birmingham's Nightingale Hospital at the NEC has this week been scaled down to a 400-bed facility.
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