NHS bosses accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of breaking commitment to give health service “all it needs” after refusing to provide £ 10bn injection needed to prevent ‘it is not paralyzed by a second wave of coronavirus.
They warned ministers that without the money, the NHS would not be prepared for next winter and the second outbreak of infections, which doctors say is inevitable. They will also not be able to restart non-Covid services or deal with the growing backlog of patients requiring surgery.
The row is pressuring Sunak to find more money for the NHS before its summer declaration on Wednesday.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has told the treasury that he needs at least £ 10 billion in additional funding this year to cover the costs of fighting the virus and reopening normal services. The money would mean the NHS could create additional hospital beds, keep Nightingale facilities on hold, send patients to private hospitals for surgery, and provide protective equipment for front-line staff.
However, weeks of negotiations have reached an impasse, the two sides disagreeing at all, sources say. Observer. They hoped to have reached an agreement on Sunday, the 72nd anniversary of the NHS’s creation in 1948 by the post-war Labor government of Clement Attlee, which is marked by numerous celebrations. But the disagreement made this impossible.
“There is an argument going on. Its pretty hard. There is a problem here. There is a standoff between the NHS and the government, “said an official familiar with the talks. “But the Treasury is playing hard and is not ready to spend money.”
Another well-placed source said, “They are at loggerheads. There is a dead end right now. There are no regulations or agreements. “
The dispute shattered the close relationship between the NHS and the government during the coronavirus crisis. In recent months, ministers have praised the service for its response, which has seen hospitals massively expand intensive care units to deal with Covid-19.
NHS leaders privately accuse the Chancellor of going back on his word. A senior official said: “There is a very, very significant difference between the phrase” the NHS will get everything it needs “and the behavior currently exposed by the Treasury.”
The impasse also divided the government. Downing Street supports the Treasury’s skeptical approach to NHS requests, but Matt Hancock’s Department of Health and Welfare has thrown its weight behind the NHS and thinks it needs the money it research. Sunak wants to limit additional government emergency spending to fight the virus after having already allocated £ 123 billion to support employment, health and other public services. The NHS has already received at least £ 6.6 billion from the coronavirus contingency fund that Sunak created in its first budget in March.
The sticking point is the NHS’s insistence that the Treasury continue to underwrite the cost of £ 400 million a month in the contract it agreed with private hospitals in March to treat NHS patients. It was designed as a temporary measure to ensure that people in need of cancer surgery, hip and knee replacements, and other operations can have them while NHS hospitals attack Covid-19. Stevens, however, now wants it to be extended until at least next April, when there are fears that the total number of people on waiting lists for planned hospital care will rise to 10 million by Christmas.
Treasury insists NHS pledge to maintain waiting list – currently 4.4 million people – at certain levels on certain dates through private hospitals with agreed number of procedures . He estimates that a large part of the £ 1.2 billion spent so far has been wasted because many hospitals have done few disturbing operations at the start of the pandemic.
“The Treasury is of the opinion that we cannot give you a blank check. They want certain guarantees from the NHS that the waiting list will be reduced and by how much. The Treasury is rightly petrified by the prospect that the waiting list will reach 8 million or 10 million, ”said an insider. However, Stevens refuses to provide such guarantees.
A hospital chief executive said, “It is important to extend the agreement with the private sector as the need for strict infection control procedures means that NHS hospitals will only operate at 60% of their size. normal capacity, which means that patients will have to wait longer for surgery. need.”
Dr. Nick Scriven, the outgoing president of the Society for Acute Medicine, supported the NHS candidacy. “It would be a shame if the funding that seemed to be promised is now tied to various measures and outcomes that were not in place when the initial announcement regarding additional funding was made. Of course, the funding must translate into an appropriate activity, but it does not make sense to mobilize the money that is really needed to get acute and urgent services in the coming months with elective surgery in private hospitals. appropriate. The government must follow its own advice and protect the NHS, “he told the Observer.
NHS providers, who represent NHS trusts, recently clarified that additional funding was also needed to help mental health services cope with the additional demand created by the psychological impact of Covid-19. Community services would also need support to help the tens of thousands of people who survived a hospital stay with the disease recover.
The Treasury has refused to discuss its ongoing negotiations with NHS leaders.