The NHS in England will receive an extra £5.4bn over the next six months in order to help deal with the impact of COVID-19, the government has confirmed.
The additional funding will help tackle hospital waiting lists and the backlog of operations and treatments delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
There are currently around five million people waiting for NHS hospital treatment in England, with figures reaching a record high this summer.
And the government has been warned that 14 million people could be on NHS waiting lists by next autumn – due to fears of a hidden backlog of patients who are still yet to come forward for treatment – without extra action being taken.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the £5.4bn cash injection was “critical” to ensure the NHS “has what it needs to manage the ongoing pandemic and helping to tackle waiting lists”.
But he also acknowledged that waiting lists “will get worse before they get better as people come forward for help”.
Mr Javid assured patients that the “NHS is open and we are doing what we can to support the NHS to deliver routine operations and treatments to patients across the country”.
The extra £5.4bn includes an additional £1bn to help tackle the COVID-19 backlog, £2.8bn to cover related costs such as enhanced infection control measures to keep staff and patients safe from the virus, and £478m to continue a hospital discharge programme to free up beds.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is also expected to soon announce long-term plans for social care funding in England, 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 frontline, 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.”
Amanda Pritchard, the newly-appointed chief executive of NHS England, 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 in to winter.”
The additional £5.4bn brings the government’s COVID funding for the NHS in England to £34bn so far this year.
The core non-COVID budget for the NHS stands at £136bn.
Health services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to receive up to £1bn in additional money following Monday’s announcement, with a final amount to be confirmed at a later date.