The Government has announced a £5.4bn funding injection for the NHS over the next six months to ‘support the Covid response’.
The Government said this would include an extra £1bn to tackle the care backlog; £2.8bn to cover related costs ‘such as enhanced infection control measures’; and £478 million to continue the hospital discharge programme.
It was unclear how much, if any, of the funding would go towards GP services. The funding is for England only, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to receive equal allocations according to the Barnett formula.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the additional funding was ‘critical to ensuring the health service has what it needs to manage the ongoing pandemic and helping to tackle waiting lists’.
He added: ‘We know waiting lists will get worse before they get better as people come forward for help, and I want to reassure you the NHS is open, and we are doing what we can to support the NHS to deliver routine operations and treatment to patients across the country.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘The NHS was there for us during the pandemic – but treating Covid patients has created huge backlogs.
‘This funding will go straight to the frontline, to provide more patients with the treatments they need but aren’t getting quickly enough.
‘We will continue to make sure our NHS has what it needs to bust the Covid backlogs and help the health service build back better from the worst pandemic in a century.’
However, the BMA has said that the money ‘will soon run out’ and called for ‘long-term sustained funding’.
In a statement, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This additional money is welcome as a first step to deal with immediate pressures. However, the scale of the backlog is gargantuan and unprecedented in the history of the NHS. Demands on general practice are at an all-time high.
‘What the NHS desperately needs from this Government is long-term sustained funding to give us the capacity to address the totality of this backlog plus give the NHS a chance to meet ongoing health needs of our nation.’
He added: ‘We have estimated that funding must increase by 4.1% to ensure that the NHS can cope, meaning core health spend must total £174bn by 2023/24.
‘At best this announcement allows for a start to what is needed, but it will soon run out. We need to have continued funding and a backlog reduction strategy that spans the years to come.’
The news comes as a report last week suggested the hospital sector would require a £10bn funding increase next year just to keep afloat.
Meanwhile, the BMA had called for ‘at least’ £4.9bn to tackle the non-Covid care backlog; £6.5bn capital funding to cover overdue maintenance costs; at least £4.2bn capital funding for wholesale digital transformation; and £1bn capital funding for GP premises.