England: NHS to receive £5.9bn to cut waiting lists

The NHS will be given £5.9 billion to tackle its record-length waiting list, the government has announced.

The investment designed to cut NHS backlogs across England will form part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's upcoming Budget however, there is no guarantee the funding will clear the queue of 5.7 million patients.

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

Chancellor Rishi Sunak called the announcement "game-changing".

“We are committed to getting health services back on track and ensuring no one is left waiting for vital tests or treatment," Mr Sunak said.

“This is a game-changing investment in the NHS to 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,” he added.

Health bodies welcomed the latest pledge but said it that it won't solve the current staff shortages.

Health secretary, Sajid Javid accepted there are "staff shortages in the NHS" but said numbers are increasing.

In a bid to tackle the ongoing issues, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to set out in his Budget the investment in NHS capital funding that will support the aim to deliver around 30% more elective activity by 2024-25 compared to pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels.

"This is equivalent to millions more checks, scans and procedures for non-emergency patients," the Treasury said, but some in the healthcare sector have said the investment "falls short" of what's needed to get the NHS back on track" Sunak said.

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation said: “Health leaders will welcome the record investment given to the NHS and they appreciate its significance in the context of a pandemic that has been so damaging to our economy.

“However, the Treasury will know that the NHS’s allocation in the Spending Review falls short of what is needed to get services completely back on track," she added.

While further details on a complete breakdown of where the money will go are set to be revealed by Mr Sunak on Wednesday, Dr McCay said the investment doesn't go far enough, with Covid still presenting challenges for the NHS that will affect costs both now and in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile, Javid said the funding was "new money" and that Mr Sunak would set out exactly where it was coming from during Wednesday's Budget and Spending Review.

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.