NHS ‘needs £10bn annual boost’ to tackle backlog and Covid cost

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The NHS needs a £10bn a year budget boost to cover the costs of Covid-19 and tackle the huge treatment backlog, health service leaders in England will tell ministers.

The plea comes in a rare joint initiative on Thursday from the two organisations that represent the 213 NHS care trusts.

Services will have to be cut, waiting lists will soar and the quality of hospital care will fall if the government increases NHS funding by anything less than £10bn, NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation said.

Their intervention is intended to put pressure on Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), where ministers and officials are finalising how much more money the NHS will get in the next three years.

An announcement is expected imminently on the final figure, despite the comprehensive spending review not being due until November.

However, NHS sources say NHS England and government talks over recent weeks have been “difficult” and there remains a £5bn-£6bn gap between the two sides.

The government is thought to have offered to increase NHS funding next year by £4bn-£5bn, which would see the DHSC’s budget rise to nearly £145bn.

Privately, NHS leaders are frustrated that ministers are not offering more, given chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledge in spring 2020 to give the service “whatever it needs” to cope with the extra costs Covid-19 has generated, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.

Sajid Javid, the health and social care secretary, recently acknowledged the number of people in England waiting for hospital treatment could soar from its current 5.45m – the largest number on record – to as many 13m, as people who could not access NHS care over the last 18 months start to do so. The waiting list is going up by about 150,000 people every month.

“Trust leaders are worried that anything short of £10bn next year will force them to cut services,” said Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation. They are worried that, despite best efforts at the frontline, the 13m waiting list they are desperate to avoid will become inevitable. And this backlog will take five to seven, not two to three, years to clear.”

Almost 1.2m people waiting at least six months for vital NHS services in England Read more

Warning that anything less than £10bn would have a direct impact on patients, Taylor added: “They worry they won’t be able to provide prompt, high-quality, safe care to all who need it as the pressure we have seen in ambulance trusts and A&E departments this summer will worsen and become more widespread across more of the year.

“They worry that all the advances made on mental health over the last decade could go into reverse. And they worry that all the planned improvements in the NHS Long Term Plan in areas like cancer and cardiac care will be put at risk.”

NHS leaders say the service needs £4bn-£5bn more a year to meet costs arising from the pandemic such as PPE, extra cleaning to repel hospital-acquired infections and the hiring of temporary staff to replace frontline personnel who are sick or isolating.

They are also seeking another £3.5bn-£4.5bn a year to help hospitals and mental health trusts reduce the backlog of care that built up when hospitals suspended much of their normal care, especially surgery, to focus on Covid patients.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Covid-19 is a once in a generation global shock, the seismic impact of which is unlike anything the service has experienced in its 73-year history. The government has said that we must learn to ‘live with Covid’. That means they must fully recognise the extent, length and cost of the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS.”

In response, a government spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure the NHS has everything it needs to continue providing excellent care to the public as we tackle the backlogs that have built up during the pandemic.

“This year alone we have already provided a further £29bn to support health and care services, including an extra £1bn to tackle the backlog.”

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