Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced major new investment to deal with the NHS backlog, and begin reform of the social care system in England.
The NHS will receive over £8 billion of additional annual funding for the next 3 years to support the recovery of elective services, which the government hopes will enable the health service to see 30% more patients than before the pandemic by 2024-25.
Social care will also receive an additional £5.4 billion over the next 3 years, with funding promised to rise after that as part of a comprehensive programme of reform. A new cap on care costs will mean that no individual has to pay more than £86,000 during their lifetime, and anyone with assets of between £20,000 and £100,000 will be eligible for some level of means-tested support.
In response Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said: “Today’s announcement starts to address two of the most urgent challenges facing health and care services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 5.4 million people were waiting for an elective procedure in June, and this is likely to rise further as more people come forward for treatment in the months ahead.
“The NHS desperately needs additional funding to enable it to tackle the backlog of care, so this new investment is very welcome. But we should not underestimate the scale of the challenge that the health service faces. The Health Foundation has projected that almost £17 billion could be needed to clear the backlog by the end of this parliament, and there remains considerable uncertainty over the level of pressure the NHS will face this winter. A key limiting factor will be workforce, and we need to give serious consideration to how we ensure that we have the staff now and in future to make the most of these new funding settlements.
“Some detail on the promised plan for reforming social care is also welcome. The RCP, like many other organisations, has been calling for a sustainable funding settlement for some time to provide more care and help reduce the demand on health services.
“We are pleased to see that the government’s proposals include funding for the development of the social care workforce, as well as to support their mental and occupational health. But the success of efforts to further integrate health and social care services will be key to the success of any plan.”