Government spending review promises £325m for new imaging equipment

No pay freeze for NHS but also no detail on recruitment of radiographers

Published: 26 November 2020 Government & NHS

The Chancellor has earmarked £325m for the NHS to invest in new diagnostic imaging equipment as part of the government’s latest spending review. 

Rishi Sunak presented details of Spending Review 2020 to parliament this week, with an additional £3bn to support the NHS’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19. On the widely trailed public sector pay freeze, he confirmed the exemption of NHS staff.

This includes a specific investment of £1bn to help hospitals begin tackling the backlog in elective procedures and ‘cut long waits for care by carrying out up to one million extra checks, scans and additional operations or other procedures’.

Around £500m will be used to address waiting times for mental health services and invest in the NHS workforce, and a further £1.5bn will be used to help ease existing pressures in the NHS caused by Covid-19.

The specific pledge of £325m to be invested in new diagnostic imaging equipment, such as MRI and CT scanners, was said to be enough funding ‘to replace over two thirds of imaging equipment that is over 10 years old’. 

This partially meets the recommendation of the Richards report in October, commissioned by NHS England, that‘all imaging equipment older than 10 years should be replaced’. The report had also called for the imaging workforce to be expanded by 4,000 radiographers and a doubling of England’s CT scanning capacity.

Charlotte Beardmore, Director of Professional Policy at the Society of Radiographers, welcomed the pledges but said more detail was required.

‘We welcome this long overdue investment in imaging services, supporting the significant increase in workforce that’s required, and the replacement of outdated equipment. 

‘We would like to see investment in additional capacity too, and it’s not clear within these headline statements how this will be addressed alongside replacing equipment. We await more detail about this, and do hope that a plan is put in place to support rolling equipment replacement to avoid this situation occurring in 10 years’ time.

‘We look forward to working with NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Health Education England, to address the imaging workforce requirements as identified in the Richards reportand we hope this announcement will support workforce investment in the NHS, both in enabling implementation of new roles, together with post registration education and training to support workforce transformation.’

The Chancellor also renewed pledges on building and upgrading hospitals. These includedmulti-year capital funding commitments of £3.7bn until 2024-25 to ‘make progress’ on building 40 new hospitals by 2030, and £1.7bn until 2024-25 for over 70 hospital upgrades to ‘improve health infrastructure across the country over the long term’. 

He promised £4.2bn in 2021-22 for NHS operational capital investment to allow hospitals to refurbish and maintain their infrastructure, and said the government would provide a ringfenced £165m in 2021-22 to replace outdated mental health dormitories with single en-suite rooms.

The funding settlement for the Department of Health and Social Care also includes £260m for Health Education England ‘to continue to grow our NHS workforce’.

Image: Bloomberg Creative / Getty Images