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NHS bosses accuse Treasury of breaking promises over coronavirus cash boost

NHS bosses accuse Treasury of breaking promises over coronavirus cash boost

NHS bosses say Treasury has broken promises on funding

4 min read

NHS bosses have accused the Treasury of breaking its pledge to give the health service "whatever it needs" to deal with the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

NHS England chief Simon Stevens said an extra £10bn is needed to help hospitals shore up their preparedness for next winter and a potential second spike in infections, as well as restart non-Covid releated treatments and surgery. 

The Observer reports health bosses had hoped to strike a funding deal with Rishi Sunak by Sunday - the NHS's 72nd birthday - but negotiations have stalled after the Chancellor refused to stump up the cash. 

One source told the paper: "There’s a row going on. It’s quite difficult. There’s a problem here. There’s arm wrestling going on between the NHS and the government.

“But the Treasury are playing hardball and aren’t prepared to stump up the money.”

Another said: “They are at complete loggerheads. There’s an impasse at the moment. There’s no settlement and no agreement.”

The two sides reportedly cannot agree an approach to deal with the backlog of people waiting for cancer treatments, hip and knee surgery and other procedures, for which the Treasury agreed a £400m-a-month contract with private hospitals in March to treat NHS patients.

Designed to take the extra pressure off the health service while it battled rising cases of Covid-19, Mr Stevens asked for it to be extended until at least next April to help deal with soaring numbers on waiting lists, while the Treasury wants a committment to keeping the backlog down to certain levels by certain dates.

The standoff has caused rifts in government, it was reported, with Downing Street backing the Treasury’s approach and the Department of Health and Social Care supporting the NHS asks. 

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he did not recongise the £10bn figure.  He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the Government had ploughed "enormous sums of money" into the NHS.

"We protected the NHS during this crisis and we will continue to protect the NHS in the future," he added.

Mr Sunak is said to be reluctant to make more cash committments after already spending £123bn on measures to support employment, health and other public services through the pandemic.

“The Treasury’s view is that we can’t give you a blank cheque," one insider told the Observer.

"They want certain guarantees from the NHS that the waiting list will be reduced and by how much. The Treasury is rightly petrified by the prospect of the waiting list hitting 8 million or 10 million."

The Government said it would not discuss its ongoing negotiations. 

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer released a video marking the anniversary of the NHS's foundation, in which he talks about his seriously ill mother's reliance on the service throughout her life. 

“It's quite personal for me. My mum was a nurse and a very proud nurse, she loved nursing. But she was also very ill," he said.

“She got a very rare illness when she was 11, which is where the immune system turns on itself and she was advised that she wouldn't walk after she was 20, she’d be in a wheelchair, she wouldn’t be able to have children. And she was determined that wouldn't be the case.”

Sir Keir adds: "I can see every day that in the NHS people go to work not just because it’s a job, but with a deep, deep sense of public service and helping other people.

"And it’s really profound and personal, and I’m very proud of the NHS as I know so many other people are.”

Boris Johnson is set to join in a nationwide clap for the NHS at 5pm on Sunday, arranged to honour all those who helped save lives during the pandemic's peak.

Landmarks across the UK, including Downing Street, the Royal Albert Hall, Blackpool Tower, the Shard and the Wembley Arch were illuminated blue on Saturday in tribute and a minute's silence was held.

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