Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the new budget this week, revealing that NHS England will be receiving £5.9bn to slash the backlog of those waiting for scans, tests and other medical appointments.
Sunak says that the new money will be ‘game changing’ and is essential to ensure ‘ the NHS is fit for the future’.
Over 5 million people are currently waiting for NHS appointments with thousands of those waiting for over a year. The record-breaking backlog is the unfortunate lasting effects of the ongoing pandemic when routine operations and appointments were frequently cancelled to deal with the prevalent demand of the virus.
The new funding will not be spent on day-to-day expenditure but instead on infrastructure and equipment. £2.9bn will be used on diagnostic scanning equipment such as CT, MRI and ultrasound scanners.
If the backlog is not dealt with swiftly, it Is thought that 14 million people could be left waiting for initial treatment by next autumn.
The ‘new money’ will not be used to deal with the lack of staff in the NHS, however it will go towards making the jobs of the current staff easier by ‘freeing up their time so they can spend more time with patients’, according to Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid.
Javid admits that ‘we do need more doctors, more nurses, people at every level of the NHS’ but there is ‘record recruitment going on and that will help’.
Increased taxes and National Insurance will finance the new spending and from 2022 the Health and Social Care Levy will be used to address the staffing issues.
Other areas where the new funding will be spent are:
- £1.5bn will be spent on hospital beds and surgical hubs, each with 4 to 5 surgery theatres.
- £2.1bn is to be spent on improving IT and digital interface such as faster broadband and software’s.
The NHS has received £97bn in additional funding since the pandemic began. The further £5.9bn will be on top of the already agreed £8bn the Government have put in place to combat the backlog over the next 3 years.
Healthcare leaders have thanked the government for the funding however many believe it falls short of what is realistically needed to get the NHS back on track.