NHS receives £700m boost to tackle growing backlogs and 'tough' winter ahead

3 December 2021, 00:57 | Updated: 3 December 2021, 01:07

Funding is being released to hospitals across England.
Funding is being released to hospitals across England. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The NHS is set to receive £700 million in funding to prepare for the "tough" winter ahead and tackle growing waiting lists.

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It comes as the Government is set to outline the key challenges facing NHS and social care services on Friday, as well as addressing the potential threat of new Covid variants such as Omicron.

A document being published will also inform the public what they can "expect from health and care services this year", the Department of Health and Social Care said.

The money for the health service will fund projects such as upgrading hospital wards, operating theatres and diagnostic kits.

It is being drawn from £5.4 billion already announced to support the NHS response to the pandemic, with a total of 785 schemes having been approved.

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Ahead of what is going to be a difficult winter, we're putting everything behind our health and care services, so everyone can access the services they need, when they need them.

"Our £700 million investment will help more people get treated over the coming months by upgrading wards, operating theatres and diagnostic kit.

"We're taking unprecedented steps to keep people healthy this winter, putting the booster rollout on steroids, and delivering the largest flu vaccine programme in UK history.

"We can all play our part in the national mission - when you get the call, please get the jab."

The Government recently announced that it intended to offer all adults their booster jabs by the end of January, in a race against the latest Covid variant of concern - Omicron.

Read more: Boris Johnson receives Covid booster jab amid Omicron variant battle

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said: "NHS staff have pulled out all the stops since the beginning of the pandemic, treating more than half a million Covid patients, while continuing to perform millions of checks, tests and treatments for non-Covid reasons.

"There is no doubt that this winter is going to be tough, with staff contending with the highest ever number of 999 calls in October, and it remains as important as ever that people do not delay seeking help from the NHS if they feel unwell.

"So anyone needing help should come forward through NHS 111 Online so that staff can help you with the best option for your care, and the NHS is accelerating our Covid booster campaign, so please accept your invite when asked, as well taking up the offer of a flu jab to protect you this winter."

Meanwhile, newly-appointed shadow health secretary Wes Streeting criticised the Government for not focusing on the shortage of NHS staff, which has contributed to the backlog.

"NHS waiting lists were at a record high before we went into the pandemic and they now stand at almost six million," he said.

"We were promised a plan to bring them down and it is now crystal clear that the Government doesn't have one.

"Today's announcement says absolutely nothing about how the Government will deal with the chronic shortage of GPs, doctors, nurses and social care staff.

"Without a serious workforce strategy, millions of people will continue to wait in pain for months on end for their treatment because there simply aren't the people we need to treat them."