• Friday, December 02, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

NHS seeks £10bn annual boost to cover Covid costs, tackle backlog

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask passes a sign for Britain’s NHS (National Health Service) Test and Trace service testing centre in East Ham in east London, on September 17, 2020. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

A joint initiative of two organisations that represent the 213 NHS care trusts have informed ministers that the NHS needs a £10bn annually to cover the costs of Covid-19 and tackle the huge treatment backlog, The Guardian reported.

The NHS Confederation and NHS Providers have said that without this extra budget boost services will have to be cut, waiting lists will soar and the quality of hospital care will fall.

According to the report, the intervention is 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.

The Guardian report added that there remains a £5bn-£6bn gap between NHS England and the government during the talks.

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.

Health secretary Sajid Javid recently acknowledged the number of people in England waiting for hospital treatment could soar from its current 5.45m to as many 13m.

According to the newspaper report, 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. 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,” Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, told The Guardian.

“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.”

NHS leaders have told the newspaper that 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, told The Guardian: “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.”

A spokesperson that the government is committed to making sure the NHS has everything it needs to continue providing excellent care to the public. This year alone we have already provided a further £29bn to support health and care services, including an extra £1bn to tackle the backlog, the spokesperson added.

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