£5.9bn Funding to Help Tackle England's NHS Backlog

Nicky Broyd

October 25, 2021

The NHS in England is to get an extra £5.9bn funding next year to help tackle the record treatment backlog, exacerbated by the pandemic.

However, some health groups have questioned whether there are sufficient staffing plans to match the investment.

The announcement ahead of Wednesday's spending review will see extra money to expand diagnostic testing equipment, infrastructure, technology, extra beds, and more surgical hubs.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak described the extra investment as "game-changing".

England's Health Secretary Sajid Javid was asked by the BBC if England's 5.7 million patient waiting list would be solved within 3 years. "I'm not going to put a number on it – it's impossible to know because I don’t know how many people will eventually come back to the NHS," he said.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are reported to be getting a proportionate amount of extra funding.

Funding 'Falls Short'

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said the investment would be welcomed: "However, the Treasury will know that the NHS's allocation in the spending review falls short of what is needed to get services completely back on track. While being grateful for the investment, we should not pretend that this is not the case.

"We support the analysis carried out by the Health Foundation, which confirmed that the NHS’s capital budget should increase by at least £1.8 billion a year over the next 3 years and that in terms of revenue funding, the NHS will need an extra £10 billion from April.

"In particular, the impact of COVID-19 still presents many challenges for the NHS that will affect costs both now and in the months and years ahead. It is not clear that this is fully accounted for in the investment. Also, it is unclear what will be made available for mental health services, which will need at least £1.6 billion until 2023/24 over and above what they have already, to respond to the surge in people seeking support.

"Finally, any investment will only deliver if there are the right number and mix of workers to do so. Recruitment is ongoing but with 80,000 vacancies across the NHS and fully-qualified GPs per patient having dropped by 10% over the past 5 years, this is a long-term issue that cannot be fixed quickly."

Also commenting, Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, described the announcement as "positive" but said: "We know that many patients are entering an overstretched system that was on its knees even before the pandemic. This funding won’t be enough on its own unless Government takes urgent action to tackle the shocking shortfall in cancer nurses and grow the cancer workforce. If Governments fail to rebuild cancer services, all of us will pay the price when we or our families face a cancer diagnosis."

Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:  "The full potential of the funding won't be realised without a long-term workforce plan. To meet rising demand for services it is vital that we address staff shortages, which needs a long-term vision, not 'quick fixes'. The announcements on Wednesday must cover this too."

COVID-19 Developments

  • Sajid Javid told Sky News he was "leaning towards" mandatory COVID vaccination for NHS staff following a consultation on the issue.

  • The President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Edward Morris, told The Guardian about the rising pressures on maternity services: "The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and we're becoming increasingly concerned about the immense pressures facing our maternity staff this winter if the situation continues as it is."

  • NHS England reported delivering 828,729 COVID-19 booster jabs in 3 days, with a total of 5.1 million booster doses administered so far.

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