Health and Care Secretary Sajid Javid has announced an extra £5.9 billion to be provided to the NHS in order for it to tackle care waiting lists. The funding was announced as part of the Budget 2021 plans, and is intended to support the service with unprecedented numbers of patients waiting for screening, care and treatment. More than five million people are awaiting treatment form NHS hospitals in England, hundreds of thousands of these are waiting more than a year.
As part of the funding, the growth agenda for diagnostics has had some recognition, with a widening of community diagnostic centres to be put into action. According to the Treasury, the money would translate into millions more checks, scans and procedures for non-emergency patients in England. More than third (£2.3bn) of the package will see another 56 ‘one-stop shop’ community diagnostic centres across England, taking the total network to 100. These will utilise CT, MRI and ultrasound scans, and the Government’s ambition is to clear all delayed scans before the next general election, due in 2024.
The funding comes on top of the £12 billion a year support for the NHS which was announced in September, to be charged until through National Insurance payments and after as a ‘Health and Care Levy’. This Budget announcement will mean £1.5 billion to be spent on extra beds, equipment and new “surgical hubs”. £2.1 billion is destined for IT and digital technology improvements.
NHS Providers has welcomed the further funding, but warned that extra staff are of critical need. The NHS Confederation stated that the figure falls short of expectations to “get services completely back on track”. Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote in the Financial Times that “Money without a workforce plan often gets wasted”.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Rishi Sunak said: “We are committed to getting health services back on track and ensuring no one is left waiting for vital tests or treatment.”