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Almost £17bn needed to clear NHS backlog, says Health Foundation



The NHS needs up to £16.8bn to clear the care backlog, the Health Foundation charity has calculated, which is more than three times the amount committed by the Government.

The Government yesterday pledged a £5.4bn package of emergency cash to help the NHS cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and tackle the mounting backlog. The funding is for England only, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to receive equal allocations according to the Barnett formula.

However, a Health Foundation report on the same day found the NHS will require £16.8bn of funding up to 2024/25 to clear the backlog, ensure patients are treated for routine hospital care within 18 weeks and treat ‘missing’ patients who did not receive care during the pandemic.

The waiting list is at a record 5.5m people for routine hospital treatment, with 1.7m waiting more than 18 weeks. And the Heath Foundation estimated the number of ‘missing patients’, who were expected to be referred to treatment but were not, is now approaching an additional 8m.

Anita Charlesworth, Health Foundation director of research, warned: ‘Covid-19 will cast a long shadow over the NHS for many years to come, even with a successful vaccination programme.

‘Long waits are not the only challenge facing the NHS. As the risks from Covid-19 continue the NHS needs to adapt to ensure it has enough capacity to treat outbreaks alongside the normal demands on the system,’ she added.

She warned the NHS workforce also needs to grow by over a third in the coming decade to meet increased demands for services and clear the backlog. A total workforce growth of up to 277,500 full-time equivalent staff would be needed by 2024/25, the analysis found.

These Health Foundation calculations do not include the direct costs of Covid-19 nor the indirect impact on productivity from measures, such as infection control and social distancing. This is because the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the NHS is still ‘too uncertain to model conclusively’, it said.

Although, the analysis did suggest that for every 1% reduction in productivity, an additional £1.5bn per year in extra funding will be required to meet the same care demands.

Patricia Marquis, RCN England director, said: ‘This report highlights the massive workforce challenges facing the health and care system. With the number of nursing vacancies now heading in the wrong direction this is a warning that can no longer be ignored.’