NHS England says it may have to start cutting care without additional funding

Monday, 8th March 2021, 12:39 pm
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 12:39 pm
Bosses have warned that paying for Covid costs out of regular budgets could cripple the health service (Photo: Shutterstock)

NHS England bosses have warned the service needs an extra £8 billion in funding to cover coronavirus costs - or they may be forced to cut care.

Chiefs have called on UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to provide extra funding to the NHS, saying that the Chancellor is attempting to pay for coronavirus care by taking money out of the usual health service budget, leading to delays in care for non-Covid patients.

The NHS bosses also accused Sunak of failing to meet care costs for some 8,000 patients currently being treated for coronavirus in England.

Warnings that services could be cut by 1 April

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told the Times he was concerned that "the chancellor and the prime minister are going to renege on their commitment to cover all the NHS’s Covid-19 costs".

He said that the meagre one per cent pay rise - in place of an "agreed assumption of 2.1 per cent" evidenced this lack of commitment.

Hopson added that ministers were now "clearly now looking for other ways" to meet the costs of treating coronavirus patients - namely by taking money out of regular NHS budgets.

In a worst case scenario, he estimates a funding gap between £7 billion and £8 billion for the first half of 2022, if the Government does not meet extra Covid costs during the next financial year, calling such a gap "unthinkable".

He pleaded with the chancellor to extend support for the NHS until September this year, warning that otherwise services would be cut by 1 April.

4.5m people on NHS waiting lists

The pandemic has already created an explosion in the number of people on NHS waiting lists, with the figure standing at 4.5 million currently.

The Times reports that Treasury sources say the NHS will not be forced to pay coronavirus costs via regular budgets, saying that £18 billion in pandemic funds is awaiting spending currently.

The Government claims the service was already scheduled to receive £7 billion before the pandemic, with a spokeswoman saying: "We have been clear that we will give the NHS what it needs. We’ve invested £63 billion this year and £22 billion next year."