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Budget 2021: NHS in England to receive £5.9bn to reduce backlog of tests, scans and surgery

Covid-19 / Mon 25th Oct 2021 at 07:21am

THE NHS in England is to receive an extra £5.9bn in this week’s Budget, the government has announced reports the BBC.

The money will be used to help clear the record backlog of people waiting for tests and scans, which has been worsened by the pandemic, and also to buy equipment and improve IT.

More details are due on Wednesday, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak called the money “game-changing”.

Health bodies welcomed the cash, but said staff shortages need to be fixed.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the funding was “new money” and that Mr Sunak would set out exactly where it was coming from on Wednesday.

The NHS is facing sustained pressure as it grapples with an unprecedented backlog of procedures put on hold due to the pandemic.

More than five million people are waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England, with hundreds of thousands waiting more than a year.

The £5.9bn, set to be officially announced in Wednesday’s Budget and Spending Review, is on top of the £12bn a year that was announced in September.

That money will be raised through tax increases – the rise in National Insurance and, from 2022, the Health and Social Care Levy – and will be spent on resources such as staffing.

The £5.9bn will be used to pay for physical infrastructure and equipment – not day-to-day spending.

Some of the £5.9bn – £2.3bn – will be used to fund more diagnostic tests, like CT, MRI and ultrasound scans, the government said.

That includes opening more community clinics for scans and tests – which the government had already announced – so people can be seen closer to home.

These centres will help clear the backlog of tests by the end of this Parliament, the government said.

Also included in the £5.9bn total is: 

  • £1.5bn to be spent on more beds, equipment and new “surgical hubs”, each with four to five surgical theatres to tackle waiting times
  • and £2.1bn to be spent on improving IT and digital technology within the NHS – for example, faster broadband.

As part of the UK’s funding formula for the NHS, a proportionate amount will also go to the health services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The chancellor said the money would “make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to get patients the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future”.

Mr Javid said it would help deliver “millions more checks, scans and procedures for patients”.

Repeated warnings over the pressures the NHS in England highlight chronic staff shortages and record numbers of people waiting for treatment.

Waiting lists have grown as routine operations were cancelled throughout the pandemic and people who put off seeking help for symptoms come forward.

One report suggested England’s waiting lists could rise to 14 million people by next autumn.

Staff shortages and infection-control measures also mean hospitals have fewer beds available.

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