After months of speculation, the Health and Social Care Levy has officially been unveiled this week across the UK, paid for by a 1.25% increase in NI contributions. The Levy, which intends to raise £39 billion over the next three years, will be used to tackle the COVID backlog and improve vital services through speedier diagnoses and the cutting of patient waiting times.
In a boost to the diagnostics sector, part of the Levy will pay for the opening of 160 Community Diagnostic Centres (CDCs) by 2025. A further raft of flagship proposals includes 9 million more checks, scans and operations by 2025; new surgical hubs to reduce waiting times for procedures; and an expansion of operating theatres and diagnostic centres for cancer.
Moreover, the extra funds will help to increase the NHS Resource Budget to over £160 billion in 2024-25. This is significant as £5.9 billion’s worth of capital investment has been earmarked to support diagnostics, technology, and elective recovery.
These investments are desperately needed following the well-publicised swell in patients waiting for elective care – a figure which currently stands at 6 million but could rise to as much as 10 million due to lack of treatments during the pandemic.
In order to urgently clear the backlog, the Levy aims to deliver: around 30% more elective activity by 2024 to 2025 compared to before the pandemic; three-quarters of patients who have been urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer will be diagnosed, or have cancer ruled out within 28 days by March 2024; and ensure no one will wait longer than 2 years for an elective treatment by July 2022.
Social care will also benefit from the Levy; receiving £5.4 billion to reform the current system. A further £500 million will be spent to ameliorate the current workforce issues in the social care sector.
In April 2023, NI rates will return to pre-2022 levels and the Levy will instead become a separate tax. The Government has stated that the taxation will be scaled, with those who are able to contribute more paying more and the richest 15% of the population footing over half the Levy’s cost.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:
“Investing in health and social care is a top priority for this government, and it is right that we fund that investment in a responsible and sustainable way.
“The money raised by the levy will enable us to deliver improved services for patients, cut waiting times and make social care funding more fair – all part of a better system for health and social care”.