Johnson Vows to Save Crisis-Hit U.K. Health Service After Covid

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The U.K.’s National Health Service is facing a fresh crisis when the pandemic recedes, with 4.7 million people stuck waiting for care, and will require significant spending and reform to survive, the government will say this week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will vow to tackle the unprecedented backlog -- which officials say is likely to get worse as more patients come forward having delayed seeking treatment.

According to officials, the huge spending commitments totaling 400 billion pounds ($560 billion) during the pandemic have put tight limits on future public spending, but Johnson will make clear the health service requires more funding in the years ahead.

NHS reform will be at the center of the government’s legislative agenda for the next year when Queen Elizabeth II sets out the draft laws as she opens parliament in an ancient ceremony in Westminster, on May 11.

Johnson’s decision to prioritize funding on the NHS represents a further attempt to occupy the political territory previously owned by the Labour Party, which founded the service shortly after World War II.

Johnson Vows to Save Crisis-Hit U.K. Health Service After Covid

His Conservatives are fresh from a set of election results in which they swept to victory in districts that had been Labour strongholds, including the northeastern English town of Hartlepool, which picked a Tory MP for the first time in the history of the seat. Tories attribute their success to finalizing the U.K.’s divorce from the European Union and managing one of the fastest Covid vaccine rollouts in the world.

The Queen’s Speech will also set out the government’s plans for overhauling the U.K.’s state subsidy regime, now it is free of European Union state aid rules. The emphasis will be on the recovery, after the U.K. suffered its deepest recession in 300 years and one of the highest death tolls in the world.

Measures in the government agenda are likely to include plans to support jobs and businesses, while delivering net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and tackling inequality and crime.

“The impact of the pandemic on people’s lives has been unique in our history,” Johnson said in an emailed statement. “Not only will we address the legacies of the pandemic, we will go further to unite and level-up the country.”

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