The Chancellor is on a collision course with NHS bosses over billions needed to cover the Covid backlog
Health chiefs have warned Rishi Sunak of a “frighteningly large” shortfall in funding which could leave them struggling to cover the costs of Covid next year.
The Chancellor is understood to be facing down demands from NHS chiefs for billions in extra funding they say they need to cover the pandemic backlog.
Trust chief executives fear the Government will offer them £5bn less than required meaning they could be forced to scale back plans for cancer and mental health care.
Downing Street played down reports that the funding package could be settled as soon as next week – with the wider Spending Review pencilled in for late October.
One insider told the Mirror: “It’s too early, a lot of the details are still being worked out”.
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There are almost 6,000 Covid patients currently in English hospitals, well over 10 times August last year, and health chiefs are concerned thousands of beds will be needed over the winter.
They are arguing that they need to effectively continue funding at levels seen at the height of the pandemic to treat new Covid patients and deal with the huge patient backlog.
Trusts received an extra £6.6bn extra for the first half of this financial year and the Treasury is now under pressure to give them an equivalent settlement to cover October to April.
NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson told The Telegraph: “Trusts are worried that if they don’t get the right funding then the 13 million waiting list that everybody is desperate to avoid becomes much more likely and trusts won’t be able to provide quality of care over winter”.
Health bosses have also warned that savings targets set under a £20bn long-term funding deal in 2018 are no longer realistic and should be dropped.
At the start of the pandemic, Mr Sunak promised the NHS it would get “whatever it takes” to get them through the crisis, but now believes that Covid spending can’t continue.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are committed to making sure the NHS has everything it needs to continue providing excellent care as we tackle the backlogs that have built up during the pandemic.”