The NHS will be given an extra £5.4 billion over the next six months to continue the response to coronavirus and tackle the backlog caused by the pandemic.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced the funding and said £1 billion of the amount would be specifically for clearing the waiting lists faced by patients due to Covid-19, while £2.8 billion will be allocated for costs such as better infection control to continue to protect against the virus.
A further £478 million would go towards discharging patients from hospitals to free up beds.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The NHS was there for us during the pandemic – but treating Covid patients has created huge backlogs.
“This funding will go straight to the front line, to provide more patients with the treatments they need but aren’t getting quickly enough.
“We will continue to make sure our NHS has what it needs to bust the Covid backlogs and help the health service build back better from the worst pandemic in a century.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We know waiting lists will get worse before they get better as people come forward for help, and I want to reassure you the NHS is open, and we are doing what we can to support the NHS to deliver routine operations and treatment to patients across the country.”
The Government said the waiting list for routine operations such as hip replacements and cataract surgery could reach 13 million, and that people coming forward for treatment they delayed during the pandemic was expected to make the situation worse before it improved.
Some £500 million of the funding announced on Monday was due to go towards opening extra theatre capacity and utilising new technology to increase the number of surgeries that can take place.
The funding is for England only, with devolved nations being allocated up to £1 billion.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “This funding provides welcome certainty for the NHS, which has pulled out all the stops to restore services, while caring for thousands of seriously ill Covid patients requiring hospital treatment during the toughest summer on record.
“This additional investment will enable the NHS to deliver more checks, scans and procedures as well as helping to deal with the ongoing costs and pressures of the pandemic as the NHS heads into winter.”
Meanwhile, an expert advising on coronavirus jabs said there was no right or wrong answer when it comes to the “finely balanced” decision on vaccinating healthy 12 to 15-year-olds against Covid-19.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s deputy chairman acknowledged there could be a level of discomfort for parents if the Government says yes to offering vaccines to this age group, after the committee decided against recommending a mass rollout on health grounds alone.
Professor Anthony Harnden said that by providing all the data for parents and teenagers to see, they are “giving choice” on the matter.
On Friday, the committee said that while the health benefits from vaccination are “marginally greater than the potential known harms”, the benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination, and noted the low risk Covid-19 presents to younger teenagers.
But Professor Chris Whitty and the three other chief medical officers in the UK are now reviewing the wider benefits of vaccinating the age group, such as minimising school absences, and are expected to present their findings within days.
The Government is awaiting their advice before making a final decision but ministers have indicated they are keen to authorise a wider rollout.
Prof Harnden told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “It is very finely balanced. It’s marginally in favour, actually if you look at all the figures – and we have published those – in favour of vaccination, but I do understand it from a parental viewpoint and I understand it from a teenager’s viewpoint.
“This is not an easy decision. And, to a certain extent, by us coming out and saying no, if the Government say yes that does create a lot of uncomfortableness, and I fully understand that.”
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