This week’s budget will include an extra £ 5.9 billion for the NHS in England, the government has announced.
The money will be used to eliminate the backlog of people waiting for tests and scans, as well as to purchase equipment and improve IT.
More details are expected on Wednesday, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak has called the money “game-changing”.
Health agencies welcomed the money, but said it only goes so far and that the staff shortage needs to be addressed.
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The £ 5.9bn, which will be officially announced in Wednesday’s budget and spending review, adds up to £ 12bn annually which was announced in September.
That money will be raised through the tax hike – the increase in national insurance and, from 2022, the health and social care tax – and will be spent on resources like staff.
This new money is equity financing and will be used to pay for infrastructure and equipment.
Some of the £ 5.9 billion – £ 2.3 billion – will be used to fund a large expansion in diagnostic testing, such as through multiple CT scans, MRIs and ultrasound scans, the government said.
This includes opening more community clinics for scans and tests – which the government had already announced – so people can be seen closer to home.
These centers will help clear the backlog of testing by the end of this Parliament, the government said.
In addition, the total of £ 5.9 billion includes:
- £ 1.5 billion to be spent on more beds, equipment and new ‘surgical hubs’, each with four or five operating rooms to deal with waiting times
- and £ 2.1 billion to spend on improving IT and digital technology within the NHS, such as faster broadband
As part of the UK’s funding formula for the NHS, a proportionate amount will also go to health services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“This is a revolutionary investment in the NHS to make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to provide patients with the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future,” said Sunak. .
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the money will help provide “millions of extra checkups, scans and procedures for patients.”
The aim is to eliminate, by the end of this Parliament, most of the huge backlog in non-urgent tests and procedures that developed during the pandemic.
The chancellor described the investment as revolutionary.
But while health agencies have welcomed the extra money, they point to persistent staffing issues: extra scanners aren’t good if you don’t have the qualified staff to handle them and interpret the results.
And the pressures on the NHS – seen across the UK, in mental health services, community care and emergency departments – show no signs of easing.
Many will carefully review Wednesday’s budget details to see if more help is on the way.
There have been repeated warnings about the NHS in England, with chronic staff shortages and a record five million people awaiting treatment, many of whom are in pain.
Those who work in the healthcare sector said they were grateful for the money, but many said it wasn’t enough to keep up with costs and demand.
NHS Providers – speaking for the hospital and other NHS trusts – said the money will help, but added, “What we need to make sure is that we have the workforce in place to deliver the services.”
“It’s not just about waiting lists,” said Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers.
“We have strong demand in mental health, community services, and urgent and emergency care.”
The NHS Confederation, which represents health leaders, said the funding “falls short of what is needed to get services back on track.”
“We support the analysis carried out by the Health Foundation, which confirmed that the NHS capital budget is expected to increase by at least £ 1.8 billion annually over the next three years and that in terms of revenue funding, the NHS will need of 10 more pounds. billion since April “.
And he added: “Finally, any investment will only pay off if there is the right number and mix of workers to do it.
“Recruitment is ongoing, but with 80,000 vacancies across the NHS and fully qualified general practitioners per patient down 10% over the past five years, this is a long-term problem that cannot be solved quickly.”
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