Coronavirus: NHS to get £3bn to tackle impact from pandemic

Suban Abdulla
·3 min read
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak hosts a remote press conference to update the nation on his economic measures announced today during the covid-19 pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street in central London on September 24, 2020. - Britain on Thursday launched a coronavirus winter battle plan to protect jobs and boost the fragile economy, after surging infections sparked fresh nationwide measures to slow the spread. (Photo by JOHN SIBLEY / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN SIBLEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
On Sunday, Sunak suggested on the BBC’S Andrew Marr show that the 10pm pub curfew could end on 2 December. Photo: John Sibley / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

The UK chancellor is set to announce an extra £3bn ($4bn) to help the NHS deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil the one-year funding during Wednesday’s spending review.

The Treasury said the £3bn package for the NHS would help tackle backlogs in the health service, with thousands of treatments and operations delayed because of the pandemic.

Of the £3bn, £500m will be spent on supporting mental health services in England. £1bn will go towards educing NHS backlogs, with up to one million extra checks, scans and operations paid for — £1.5bn will be used to ease existing pressures in the health service.

Sunak said: “Our world-class NHS has played a critical role in the response to coronavirus, but we know how desperately difficult and distressing it has been for patients that are waiting to have operations and medical treatment during the pandemic.

“This substantial package of extra funding will help people receive the medical care they need as soon as possible.”

According to the Treasury, the number of people waiting a year for treatment has risen from about 1,500 in February to 140,000 in September 2020.

The extra funding will only be for England, but the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive equivalent funding via the Barnett formula.

READ MORE: Business set for more uncertainty as tiered lockdowns loom for England

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: "As well as caring for seriously ill and vulnerable coronavirus patients, our hardworking nurses, doctors, therapists and other NHS staff are looking after many other patients, some of whose care has been disrupted by these two large waves of COVID-19.

“This extra funding will therefore rightly enable them to tackle longer waits for care by carrying out up to one million extra checks, scans and additional operations. And because covid takes a mental as well as physical toll, it's particularly important that we will be able to continue to expand mental health services too."

But Sunak warned of tough times ahead.

The chancellor told the Sunday Times that "people will see the scale of the economic shock laid bare.”

"We can see the data every month, and obviously the shock that our economy is facing at the moment is significant."

The pandemic has had an averse impact on the UK economy. In October, borrowing hit £22.3bn, with public sector debt now over £2tn.

Late on Saturday night, the UK government announced that England will go into new tiered restrictions when the second lockdown ends on 2 December.

The tougher measures will mean more areas face severe constraints in order to prevent COVID-19 spreading further before the crucial Christmas period.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s office said it would set out a new winter plan on Monday, with more areas placed into higher restrictions according to the tiered system.

Previously, Sunak hinted at such a move, saying on BBC Radio 4 at the beginning of November: “Our hope and expectation is, on the basis of everything we know today, that these measures will be sufficient to bring the R rate to where we need it to be. And, therefore, we can exit back into the tiered approach.”

On Sunday, Sunak suggested on the BBC’S Andrew Marr show that the 10pm pub curfew could end on 2 December.

Watch: How can Rishi Sunak plug the hole in public finances?