Health leaders have urged the UK government to provide additional funding for the NHS in England to help it recover from the coronavirus backlog as billions of pounds of new money have been described as a good first step.
Officials warned Monday that waiting lists for routine surgeries like hip replacements and cataract surgeries in England could reach 13 million by the end of the year.
It came when the government said the NHS in England will receive an additional £ 5.4 billion over the next six months to continue responding to the coronavirus and cope with the backlog caused by the pandemic.
Ministers are, however, urged to “pay in their spending review the extra £ 10 billion a year that the NHS will need over the next three years to avoid a cut in patient care”.
The Department of Health and Social Welfare (DHSC) announced the new funding, saying £ 1 billion of the amount would be used specifically to clear waiting lists patients face due to Covid-19, while £ 2.8 billion in costs such as better infection protection to continue protecting against the virus.
Another £ 478 million would be used to discharge patients from hospitals to free up beds.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The NHS was there for us during the pandemic – but treating Covid patients has created a huge backlog.
“These funds will go straight to the front line to give more patients the treatments they need, but not quickly enough.
“We will continue to make sure our NHS has what it needs to hit the Covid residue and help the health service better recover from the worst pandemic in a century.”
Health Minister Sajid Javid said: “We know that waiting lists will get worse before they get better when people come forward for help and I want to assure you that the NHS is open and we are doing what we can to help the NHS to assist in providing routine surgeries and treatments to patients across the country. “
Health politicians welcomed the investment but also warned that the government had to do more.
In a joint statement, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, and Saffron Cordery, Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, said: “The NHS can now get on with the enormous task it has before we await one of the toughest winters out there Service has ever faced.
“The government’s job now is to keep track of the spending review on the extra £ 10 billion a year that the NHS will need over the next three years to keep patient care from being cut.”
They said the clarity on funding came “later in the year,” but that means hospitals, ambulances, mental health services, community and primary care services can finally plan their services knowing the budget available.
The couple added that the NHS is being held back by a major staff shortage that will make it much harder to clean up the backlog, which could last five to seven years.
Health Foundation director of research Anita Charlesworth described the announcement as a reminder of the scale and ongoing impact of the pandemic on the NHS, as Covid-19 spending on the NHS soars to £ 15 billion this year, similar to the additional cost last year Year.
She said, “It is important that the government recognize that this is only the first installment of the substantial funding needed to get the NHS on the road to recovery.”
While the Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council, Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, describing the money as a welcome “first step in addressing the immediate pressures”, added that “the extent of the backlog is gigantic and unprecedented in the history of the NHS”.
He said there were 5.45 million people on waiting lists, compared to four million before the pandemic.
He added, “What the NHS urgently needs from this government is long-term, sustainable funding to give us the ability to tackle all the backlog and give the NHS a chance to meet our nation’s continuing health needs.”
About £ 500 million of the funding announced on Monday was to be used to open additional theater capacity and deploy new technology to increase the number of operations that can take place.
Funding applies to England only, with the decentralized nations being allocated up to £ 1 billion.
NHS Executive Director Amanda Pritchard said: “This funding provides a welcome reassurance to the NHS, which has pulled out all stops to restore services as it tends to thousands of critically ill Covid patients who are hospitalized in the toughest summer in existence.
“This additional investment will allow the NHS to conduct more checks, scans and procedures and help cope with the ongoing costs and pressures of the pandemic as the NHS goes into winter.”
The Prime Minister is expected to tie the NHS restoration to health and welfare funding announcements for Tuesday.
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