Despite an upcoming £12bn national insurance rise to produce extra funding, critics say that the government lacks a real plan to turn that funding into better patient care. In particular, those stuck on waiting lists for elective care and perhaps most crucially, those receiving cancer treatment.
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As of December last year, almost 6.1 million patients were on the waiting list for non-urgent care for procedures such as knee or hip replacements, the figure the highest since records began in 2007. And despite the additional funding, the backlog is expected to rise to 7 million by 2024. Additionally, targets for cancer care haven’t been met since 2014.
Recently, the House of Commons public accounts committee criticised the Department of Health and Social Care for overseeing years of decline in the treatment of these patients, stating that non-urgent operation waiting times predated the pandemic and were only made worse during that time. Despite calling on the health service to set out a clear timeframe, costs, and outputs to reduce the current backlog, it appears that NHS England and the health department are not willing to commit to anything concrete. There is no plan to address the “postcode lottery” that determines the quality of care a patient gets.
The Treasury and health bosses are in contention over setting clear targets for the NHS pandemic recovery plan before the £12bn increase in national insurance contributions, which is set to take place this month. So far, NHS England has only committed extra money to help push elective care activity above pre-pandemic levels by 30% by 2024/25.
It’s concerning that there is no real plan for how to claw back from astronomical wait times and poor patient care that has plagued the NHS for years. Critics assert that the health department fails to understand that treating NHS staff better might just be the solution to their problems. Only time will tell if a permanent solution will ever be found for the problem.