Politics

NHS services will be cut without extra £10bn, government warned


Boris Johnson’s government must boost the NHS budget by around £10bn or crucial services will have to be cut, two major organisations representing the health service have warned.

Almost half of the extra money will be needed to cover costs related to the Covid crisis, said NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation said.

But billions more will be needed to help tackle the huge waiting lists for operations and other procedures, the organisations said in report revealing the costs facing the health service in England.

The two bodies said their assessment is based on a survey of England’s 213 hospital, mental health, community and ambulance trusts – which together spend almost two-thirds of the NHS budget.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations across the country, said: “Trust leaders are worried that anything short of £10bn next year will force them to cut services.”

The health service chief added: “They are worried that, despite best efforts at the frontline, the 13 million 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.”

The joint report, entitled A Reckoning: The Continuing Cost of Covid-19, some £4.6bn will be required to cover costs linked to Covid, while between £3.5bn and £4.5bn would be needed to tackle backlogs in care.

Mr Taylor NHS trust leaders were worried funding issues would add to the pressure on A&E departments and put planned improvements in areas like cancer and cardiac care set will be put at risk.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital and ambulance trusts, said: “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.”

In a joint statement, the two leaders said that “health outcomes for millions of patients” in was dependent on the government’s next spending review decision.

“Patients genuinely are at peril. The government has to demonstrate that the NHS is safe in its hands. Frontline NHS leaders cannot stand idly by if they are forced to cut services, putting patients at risk,” they added.

Responding to the joint report, the Royal College of Surgeons of England said the government’s funding plans “made before the pandemic are no longer fit for purpose”.

President of the college, Prof Neil Mortensen, warned: “If the government doesn’t act, the record waiting list we see now of 5.45 million [patients] could double, with dire economic and human consequences.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid recently said he was “shocked” when officials warned him that the backlog for routine operations and procedures in England could reach 13 million patients. “It’s going to be one of my top priorities to deal with because we can’t have that,” he pledged.

The NHS has been under serious strain from rising patient numbers this summer. Hospitals have been forced to issue a “black alert” – an emergency warning they are under severe pressure – over bed shortages in recent weeks.

Two major London hospitals told The Independent last month that they had declared “black alert” incidents due to bed shortages as well as rising numbers of people turning up in A&E.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure the NHS has everything it needs to continue providing excellent care to the public as we tackle the backlogs that have built up during the pandemic.”

“This year alone we have already provided a further £29bn to support health and care services, including an extra £1bn to tackle the backlog. This is on top of our historic settlement for the NHS in 2018, which will see its budget rise by £33.9bn by 2023/24.”

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