NHS handed extra £5.4bn over next six months to tackle Covid and waiting list backlog

New funding comes days after two major organisations warned that health service needed a boost of around £10bn to prevent crucial services from being cut

<p>Boris Johnson said the money would go ‘straight to the frontline’ </p>

Boris Johnson said the money would go ‘straight to the frontline’

The NHS in England will be given an extra £5.4bn over the next six months to respond to the fallout from Covid-19 and tackle the country’s large patient waiting list, the government has announced.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that £1bn of the funding will be used to help clear the backlog caused by the pandemic, with more than five million people waiting for hospital treatment in England.

Some £2.8bn will be allocated towards improving infection control in hospitals, helping to keep patients and staff better protected against the virus, while a further £478m will be spent discharging patients in order to free up more beds.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the money would go “straight to the frontline” and provide treatments people “aren’t getting quickly enough”.

“The NHS was there for us during the pandemic – but treating Covid patients has created huge backlogs,” he said. “We will continue to make sure our NHS has what it needs to bust the Covid backlogs and help the health service build back better from the worst pandemic in a century.”

The government said the waiting list for routine operations such as hip replacements and cataract surgery could reach 13 million, and that people coming forward for treatment they delayed during the pandemic was expected to make the situation worse before it improved.

Some £500m of the funding announced on Monday was due to go towards opening extra theatre capacity and utilising new technology to increase the number of surgeries that can take place.

The funding is for England only, with devolved nations being allocated an extra £1bn, and brings the total NHS spending on Covid-19 to £15bn for 2021.

The health secretary Sajid Javid said: “We know waiting lists will get worse before they get better as people come forward for help, and I want to reassure you the NHS is open, and we are doing what we can to support the NHS to deliver routine operations and treatment to patients across the country.”

The new funding comes days after two major organisations warned that the NHS needed a boost of around £10bn to prevent crucial services from being cut.

In a joint report, NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation revealed that some £4.6bn would be needed to cover the costs linked to the Covid crisis, while between £3.5bn and £4.5bn would be required to tackle waiting lists for operations and other medical procedures.

The report was based on a survey of England’s 213 hospital, mental health, community and ambulance trusts, which, when combined, spend nearly two-thirds of the NHS budget.

Responding to the government’s funding announcement, the two organisations said the initial £5.4bn package would allow the NHS to “now get on with the huge task it has ahead of we anticipate will be one of the most challenging winters the service has ever faced”.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, and Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said £10bn would still be needed on an annual basis for the next three years to avoid patient services being cut.

Although the extra funding will allow hospital, ambulance, mental health, community and primary care services to start planning for the immediate future, major staff shortages will continue to hamper recovery efforts, the two health chiefs said.

“This isn’t a short-term fix – we are looking at five to seven years to clear the backlog,” they added.

The Health Foundation said “it’s important that the government recognises that this is the only the first instalment of the substantial funding needed to put the NHS on the road to recovery”.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research at the charity, said: “With the pandemic far from over and huge uncertainties about winter pressures, the government should continue allocating further funding to the NHS for the current year based on need.

“Covid-19 will impact the NHS for many years to come, services won’t just bounce back to ‘business as usual’ next spring.”

She said there “will need to be realism about the speed” at which the NHS can recover from the pandemic and cut down its current patient waiting times.

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