The government has announced £6 million in funding for new wards at two hospitals in Kent.
Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford and Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham have each received a share of a £250 million pot to support the recovery of urgent and emergency care services this winter.
The funding has been awarded to NHS trusts to relieve pressures and help cut waiting lists.
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust has received just over £2.5million in funding while Medway NHS Foundation Trust has been given £3.85million.
The refurbishment at Darent Valley will create 15 additional beds across three wards.
Olive Ward at Darent Valley was due to open in December 2021 after the NHS spent £7.4 million on building it in the hope of easing waiting times and increasing bed capacity.
But the trust has still not taken occupancy of the ward due to “ongoing plumbing issues” – although a spokesman previously said there is hope the ward will be in use in the coming months.
The funding boost aims to help patients move out of A&E more quickly or to help more patients receive same-day urgent and emergency care.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has welcomed the funding. He said: “I am delighted the government has selected Darent Valley Hospital for funding of new hospital beds.
“These upgrades will free up hospital capacity. This is really good news for NHS patients locally and will help us to cut waiting lists.
“We are all tremendously proud of the work of the staff across the hospital and I know this will be welcome news as the hospital prepares for this winter.”
A spokesman for Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust said: “The Trust welcomes the additional capital funding announced which supports expanding our emergency bed capacity to meet the growth in demand.
“We are in the process of agreeing the best use of this funding with NHSE to maximise the bed capacity available.”
Jayne Black, chief executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust said: “We welcome this funding which will help us to improve care for the people of Medway and Swale.
“This additional money will pay for 32 new general and acute beds, and the installation of a new catheterisation laboratory, helping us to ensure that patients are treated more quickly.”
This investment is part of the NHS urgent and emergency care recovery plan published in January 2023, which set out plans to provide more than 5,000 additional permanent, fully staffed hospital beds.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the planning for winter had started "earlier than ever before" and that the public could be reassured the NHS would be given the resources it needs.
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, welcomed the funding but warned it was “just one piece of a much larger puzzle”.
She said: “Not only will these new beds need to be staffed, but underlying issues including workforce shortages, a lack of investment in capital and the desperate need for social care reform will ultimately hinder progress unless also addressed.
"Similarly, other parts of the health system, including mental health and community services, need adequate investment in physical capacity to meet high demand.
"As winter is the busiest time of the year for urgent and emergency care, trust leaders will be very concerned that this extra capacity is only expected to be in place by January.
“For the best results, trusts would need these new beds before winter begins.”