The Chancellor has pledged to include funding for digital technology and to tackle the backlog of care in the NHS in his upcoming Budget, the BMA has said.
According to the BMA, £5.9bn in capital funding has been earmarked to help the NHS tackle the growing backlog of elective care but this must be ‘matched by a workforce to deliver’ it.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to set out tomorrow that £2.1bn of this has been allocated to improving IT and digital technology in the NHS, while £2.3bn will be set aside for diagnostic services, according to reports.
In a statement responding to the news, BMA Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘[This] is promising news ahead of Wednesday’s Budget, but it’s still only on paper and clarity is needed about how exactly this money will be spent in addressing the ever-growing backlog of care.
‘The promise of delivering millions more checks, scans and procedures as part of tackling the backlog will require trained staff, and this must be addressed on Wednesday if this funding is going to have any impact on patient care.’
He added: ‘Whilst it is positive that bed capacity and extra equipment have been accounted for in today’s announcement, plus funding set to be invested in IT, it’s essential that all of this is complemented by a workforce to match, and further detail is urgently needed on this.’
The NHS Confederation added that the promised investment ‘falls short of what is needed’.
Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Health leaders will welcome the record investment given to the NHS and they appreciate its significance in the context of a pandemic that has been so damaging to our economy.
‘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.’
She added: ‘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 five years, this is a long-term issue that cannot be fixed quickly.’
The BMA last month said that the Government has a ‘moral duty’ to commit to giving the NHS ‘whatever it needs’, after a report found that an extra £10bn is needed next year to give the NHS a chance to make gains on the referral backlog and cover extra costs of Covid.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in March last year that ‘whatever extra resources our NHS needs’ to cope with the coronavirus ‘it will get, whether that be millions, or billions, of pounds’.
It comes as the Government and NHS England’s £250m ‘support package’ for GPs – which aims to improve access to practices and increase the levels of face-to-face appointments – has been met with fierce criticism from the profession and their leaders.