Struggling A&E units in England are to be given a £500m bailout over the next two years to ensure waiting times are kept under control.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the funds would be targeted at areas under most pressure after the NHS missed its waiting time target in the winter.
The money – sourced from savings – will be deployed in A&E units and linked community services, such as pharmacies.
Doctors said the government was guilty of “papering over the cracks”.
News of the cash injection comes a fortnight after the Commons Health Select Committee said the “confusing” and “contradictory” information it had received over NHS crisis plans raised questions about whether it would be in a position to cope better next winter.
During the cross-party group’s investigation, the MPs found just 17% of hospitals had the recommended level of consultant cover, while difficulties with discharging patients and a lack of beds at times meant the flow of patients through the system was disrupted.
The problems in A&E units have stabilised in the past few months, but from January to March the NHS, which has an annual budget of more than £100bn, missed its four-hour waiting time target as long waits hit their highest level for nine years.
More than 300,000 patients waited longer than they should have – a 39% rise on the previous year.
The Department of Health said £500m – sourced from its own efficiency savings programme – was being provided after the NHS had been working hard to put plans in place to cope with growing demands.