U.K. Health Service to Get Extra $7.5 Billion to Clear Backlogs


The U.K. government announced an extra 5.4 billion pounds ($7.5 billion) for the National Health Service in England over the next six months to help tackle soaring waiting lists and bolster the Covid-19 response.

The funding includes 1 billion pounds to bring down the backlog, 2.8 billion pounds to cover-related costs such as enhanced infection control measures and almost 500 million pounds to help free up hospital beds, the Department of Health and Social Care said Monday.

It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned in July that the waiting list for routine operations and treatment -- currently at a record 5.5 million in England -- could rise to 13 million in the coming months. 

In an e-mailed statement, the health department said that while the extra funding would “go some way” to help reduce this number, “waiting lists will rise before they improve as more people who didn’t seek care over the pandemic come forward.”

The extra cash is separate to a plan being considered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to raise national insurance, a payroll tax, to fund a longer-term hike in spending on health and social care. 

That could be unveiled as soon as Tuesday -- but Johnson faces a backlash from his members of his Conservative Party after his 2019 election manifesto pledged not to raise rates of national insurance, income tax or value-added tax.

Two organizations representing the NHS frontline -- the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers -- last week warned that services could have to be cut unless the health service gets an extra 10 billion pounds in funding in 2022-23. 

They pointed to rising financial pressures facing hospitals and family doctors dealing with the pandemic including extra cleaning to limit the spread of infection, expanding services to meet higher patient demand, and bringing in more agency workers to cover for staff who are self-isolating.

Meanwhile, there is a growing backlog for non-urgent operations, cancer treatment and mental health services -- as well as ongoing costs related to Covid vaccinations and setting up test and trace systems.

The package announced Monday is additional to a five-year settlement for the NHS which will see funding increase by 33.9 billion pounds by 2023-24, the department said.

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