Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to provide nearly £6 billion to help the NHS address its lengthening waiting lists and technological challenges.
With Sunak due to deliver his Autumn Budget to the House of Commons on Wednesday (October 27th), he is set to give the health service £3.8 billion to tackle waiting lists and £2.1 billion to invest in new digital technology.
The NHS has come under great strain during the pandemic, with many procedures cancelled leaving patients waiting months on end for treatment.
How many people are on NHS waiting lists?
In England, there are 5.6 million people currently awaiting routine treatment. This is the highest figure since records began in 2007.
In August, the overall median waiting time for NHS treatment rose to 11.5 weeks, with over 1.85 million patients waiting more than 18 weeks to be treated.
Why are NHS waiting lists so long?
After the onset of the pandemic, NHS hospitals across the country were forced to cancel operations and other procedures as emergency admissions spiked due to the virus.
While Covid hospitalisations have come down substantially since the worst of the pandemic, the health service has been left with a huge backlog of treatments to work through.
This has caused a great deal of anxiety, stress and uncertainty for those patients who’ve had to wait far longer than they usually would for procedures, including life-altering ones.
How long will it take to clear the NHS backlog?
It isn’t yet clear exactly how long it’ll take to clear the NHS backlog, as resources are still having to be diverted to deal with the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
Covid case rates have risen again in recent weeks, though hospitalisations remain much lower than they were before the vaccine rollout began.
Vaccines have helped to greatly weaken the link between Covid infections and serious illness leading to hospitalisation, though there are concerns about the pace at which booster jabs are being offered to those most in need of them.
Patients will hope the extra £3.8 billion makes a tangible difference to NHS waiting times, though critics say the funding doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to cut lists.