THE government said on Thursday (14) it would invest £200 million of extra funding in the NHS to help boost its resilience during the busy winter months.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak has made cutting NHS patient waiting lists one of his five top priorities ahead of a national election expected next year. More than 7.5 million people in England are on a waiting list for hospital treatment.
“Winter is the most challenging time for the health service,” Sunak said in a statement. “This extra £200m will bolster the health service during its busiest period, while protecting elective care so we can keep cutting waiting lists.”
In addition, the government said it would invest £40m to improve social care capacity and improve discharge from hospital.
The NHS has been struggling to keep up with patient demands, an increasingly elderly and sickly population, and the cost of new medicines and treatments. A business plan published on Tuesday (12) by NHS England, the largest part of the NHS, put its budget for 2023/24 at £168.8 billion.
The Covid-19 pandemic strained an already creaking system, and services have been further disrupted over the last year by a series of strikes over pay by doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.
The NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, welcomed the funding but said it risked being absorbed by the cost of ongoing industrial action which it estimated had already cost around £1 bn.
Junior and senior doctors are due to take joint strike action for the first time later this month, and again in October.
“There remain serious challenges to be resolved, the most pressing of which is industrial action … We need to see this situation settled as it has already gone too far,” said NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor.