£3bn boost to NHS will allow for 1m more scans, checks and operations
A £3bn spending boost for the NHS will allow the service to carry out 1 million more scans, checks and operations, the head of the health service has said.
But unions said far more was needed to cope with the fallout from the pandemic, with the British Medical Association (BMA) calling for a £10bn injection.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to announce the additional funding for the NHS in the Spending Review on Wednesday.
It follows his pledge in March that “the NHS will get whatever resources it needs” to respond to the health crisis caused by the pandemic.
Sir Simon Stevens, head of the NHS said the funding would help tackle backlogs in the health service, enabling NHS staff to “tackle longer waits for care by carrying out up to one million extra checks, scans and additional operations.”
The number of people waiting a year for treatment has risen from about 1,500 in February to 140,000 in September.
The BMA said more than £10 billion in extra NHS funding is needed just to tackle the growing backlog in care caused by the pandemic.
The doctors’ union reminded Mr Sunak of the promises he made in March, when he said: "I can say absolutely categorically the NHS will get whatever resources it needs to get us through this and to respond to the health crisis."
According to the union’s analysis, there have been 2.2.million fewer operations since the start of the pandemic, which will cost an estimated £9 billion to clear. There were also 14.6 million fewer outpatient attendances than expected, a backlog which could cost around £1.7bn to catch up with.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman said: "The Covid pandemic has shone a piercing light on what happens when a system already pushed to its limits by years of under-resourcing faces a new crisis."
He added: "The Chancellor this week has a golden opportunity to make good on his word, and begin to undo the damage wrought by the failure to invest in the nation’s health – none of us can afford for him to waste it."
The Royal College of Surgeons of England said an extra £3bn was “just a stop-gap when you consider the size of the task in hand” – amounting to less than 3 per cent of the NHS’s normal budget.
Prof Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said: “The pandemic has shown this country’s fighting spirit in the face of a crisis. The government’s response has been admirable, with billions ploughed into our health and economic defences.
“We need the Chancellor to adopt the same spirit now in tackling the backlog of operations that has built up. Covid has created a mammoth waiting list, and an alarming rise in waits of more than a year. This could hold back the country’s recovery, if we do not tackle it swiftly.
“Every patient on the waiting list has a story to tell. Many are in considerable pain, some are struggling to stay active, or at risk of losing their job. At worst their conditions deteriorate during the wait, and at best, their quality of life is seriously diminished.
“We want to see the Chancellor deploy all the verve, determination and generosity applied to the Covid crisis, to the national effort needed to sort out waiting times. "
The Treasury said on Saturday that £1 billion of the £3 billion promised by the Chancellor will go towards cutting backlogs. It said "hundreds of millions" would go toward mental health services following a rise in demand during the pandemic, while £325 million will go towards upgrading diagnostic equipment.