The NHS is set to receive more than £3bn in Covid funding as part of this year’s Spending Review, the Government has announced.
The new funding is set to be announced by the Chancellor at this week’s Spending Review and will include £1bn to address backlogs in care caused by the pandemic, the Treasury said.
This will pay for up to one million extra checks, scans and additional operations for those whose treatment has been delayed since the start of the pandemic, it added.
However, the BMA warned that more than £10bn additional funding is needed ‘just to tackle the growing backlog in care’.
The number of people waiting a year for treatment has risen from around 1,500 in February to 140,000 in September, according to the Treasury.
‘Around’ £1.5bn will be used to ‘support existing pressures in the NHS’ and ‘around’ £325m will be invested in NHS diagnostics next year, which could replace more than two-thirds of older screening equipment, it said.
It remains unclear whether any of the funding will be invested in general practice.
The Government said it remains ‘committed to ensuring the NHS has the certainty it needs to plan and improve patient outcomes’.
Meanwhile, ‘hundreds of millions’ will also be set aside for mental health care in 2021/22 with an aim to ‘tackle the backlog of adult mental health referrals’, following a ‘rise in demand’ as a result of the pandemic, the Treasury said.
It will also fund new specialist services for children and young people, provide ‘extra support’ for those with severe mental illness and ensure ‘faster access’ to psychological support for those with depression and anxiety, it added.
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said: ‘Our world-class NHS has played a critical role in the response to coronavirus, but we know how desperately difficult and distressing it has been for patients that are waiting to have operations and medical treatment during the pandemic.
‘This substantial package of extra funding will help people receive the medical care they need as soon as possible.’
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens added: ‘As well as caring for seriously ill and vulnerable coronavirus patients, our hard working nurses, doctors, therapists and other NHS staff are looking after many other patients, some of whose care has been disrupted by these two large waves of Covid.
‘This extra funding will therefore rightly enable them to tackle longer waits for care by carrying out up to one million extra checks, scans and additional operations. And because covid takes a mental as well as physical toll, it’s particularly important that we will be able to continue to expand mental health services too.’
However, the BMA called on the Chancellor not to break his promise at the start of the pandemic that he would give the NHS ‘whatever it needs’ and provide ‘at least’ £10.7bn to tackle the backlog of elective care and outpatient appointments.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Both the NHS and our public health services went into the pandemic underfunded, understaffed and overstretched – and without an urgent injection of resources and a bold long-term funding plan the Government is once again setting both up to fail; and in doing so failing patients, staff and the wider health of our nation.
‘Not only do we desperately need urgent extra funding to tackle the second wave and the acute pressures it causes, but also billions more are needed to work through the huge backlog in care left by the first – as well as a long-term settlement that puts the NHS, public health and social care services on a sustainable footing for the future.’
He added: ‘The Chancellor this week has a golden opportunity to make good on his word, and begin to undo the damage wrought by the failure to invest in the nation’s health – none of us can afford for him to waste it.’
The Government must also invest in ‘looking after and retaining’ healthcare staff, ensuring they are ‘properly rewarded’ for their work, Dr Nagpaul said.
The BMA is calling for:
- A multi-year settlement for capital funding in the NHS, with at least £6.5bn to cover outstanding maintenance costs and £1bn for GP premises;
- At least £10.7bn to tackle the backlog of elective care and outpatient appointments;
- A recurrent annual real-terms increase in health spending of at least 4.1%;
- Investment in the NHS workforce’s welfare and staff retention, including a ‘fair’ pay settlement that both recognises the ‘sacrifices of doctors fighting the pandemic’ and starts ‘addressing the real terms pay cut that doctors have experienced since 2008’;
- An increase of £1bn to the public health grant, with additional investment year-on-year increasing to £4.5bn by 2023/24;
- An additional £12.2bn for social care by 2023/24.
In July, general practice was omitted in Government plans for the NHS to receive £3bn in extra funding to ‘get ready for winter’ during the pandemic.
And NHS England this month announced that the £150m fund NHS England will inject to keep GP services running throughout the Covid vaccination campaign is the sum of additional pandemic funding for practices ‘until March’.