Extra funding for NHS to help tackle backlog welcomed

The Government has pledged more money to “get our country through coronavirus”.

The Chancellor said £3 billion will be provided to support NHS recovery – allowing the health service to carry out up to one million checks, scans and operations.

Rishi Sunak added £6 billion will be put towards research and procuring Covid-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, £15 billion will be made available in 2021/22 for the Test and Trace programme to support “enhanced testing capacity”, including regular testing of NHS staff and social care workers.

A total of £2.1 billion will continue to maintain and distribute stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE), and £163 million has been allocated for Covid medicines and therapeutics.

Data released earlier this month revealed the extent of the NHS backlog.

Across England, 139,545 people had waited more than 52 weeks to start treatment as of September this year – the highest number for any calendar month since September 2008.

The data from NHS England also showed 1.72 million people had waited more than 18 weeks to start treatment in September.

Charities have welcomed the funds for the NHS in England to help tackle backlogs in care.

Steven McIntosh, director of policy, campaigns and influence at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It is positive that the Government has listened to our concerns about the impact of disrupted and delayed diagnosis and treatment, and is investing additional funding in helping the NHS tackle the backlog.

“This will provide much needed emergency support to help services defuse the ticking time bomb of undiagnosed and untreated cancer.”

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This Spending Review was a pivotal moment for the Government to back its ambitions to improve cancer survival, and today’s announcement is a step in the right direction. This investment will help to clear the backlog of millions of people waiting for cancer care and will begin to address major barriers to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“Funding for some new diagnostic equipment is good news but much more will be needed. We’re particularly pleased that the Government has given the NHS additional money to train more staff, which is desperately needed but longer-term commitments to this will be vital.”

Pascale Robinson, of the campaign body We Own It, said: “Rishi Sunak has announced billions of pounds for testing, PPE and vaccines in the Spending Review. Now we need to see the detail.

“After the shocking scandals over the disastrous procurement of PPE and the mismanagement of Test and Trace, the Government must be investing in a public sector response, not funnelling yet more cash to their mates in the private sector.

“Moreover, pumping money into testing is important, but so too is contact tracing. We all know how vital contact tracing is to get a grip on this crisis, and yet we’ve seen how poorly handled it has been by private companies like Serco in England.

“The Government should now be investing properly in a properly functioning contact tracing system, led by local public health teams. That’s crucial to get us safely through the woods on this pandemic.”