The NHS budget must increase by around £10 billion and anything less could see trusts forced to cut services, the leaders of two major organisations representing the health service’s frontline have warned.
Almost half of the money will be needed to cover ongoing coronavirus-related costs, NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation said.
Billions will also be needed to recover care backlogs, the organisations said, as they published a report detailing the costs facing the health service in England.
They said that of their total £10 billion estimate, some £4.6 billion will be required to cover ongoing costs linked to the virus, while between £3.5 and £4.5 billion would be needed to tackle backlogs in care.
Their joint report – entitled A Reckoning: The Continuing Cost Of Covid-19 – warns that coronavirus has resulted in a rise in the NHS’s day-to-day running costs which they said is “for the long term”.
Factors include infection control measures, higher staff absence rates due to illness or self-isolation, expanding services to deal with increased demand, and providing more personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
The report states that these “will be with us for the duration of the three-year period likely to be covered by this autumn’s CSR (comprehensive spending review).”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The NHS has consistently demonstrated that, when it is properly funded, it delivers for patients and the nation as a whole.”
He added: “Covid-19 is a once-in-a-generation, global shock, the seismic impact of which is unlike anything the service has experienced in its 73-year history.
“The Government has said that we must learn to ‘live with Covid’. That means they must fully recognise the extent, length and cost of the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Trust leaders are worried that anything short of £10 billion next year will force them to cut services.
“They are worried that, despite best efforts at the frontline, the 13 million waiting list they are desperate to avoid will become inevitable. And this backlog will take five to seven, not two to three, years to clear.
“They worry they won’t be able to provide prompt, high quality, safe care to all who need it as the pressure we have seen in ambulance trusts and A&E departments this summer will worsen and become more widespread across more of the year.
“They worry that all the advances made on mental health over the last decade could go into reverse. And they worry that all the planned improvements in the NHS Long Term Plan in areas like cancer and cardiac care set will be put at risk.”
In a joint statement, the two leaders said that “health outcomes for millions of patients” in the next three years are dependent on the “crucial” spending review decision.
They added: “Patients genuinely are at peril.
“The Government has to demonstrate that the NHS is safe in its hands. Frontline NHS leaders cannot stand idly by if they are forced to cut services, putting patients at risk.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure the NHS has everything it needs to continue providing excellent care to the public as we tackle the backlogs that have built up during the pandemic.
“This year alone we have already provided a further £29 billion to support health and care services, including an extra £1 billion to tackle the backlog. This is on top of our historic settlement for the NHS in 2018, which will see its budget rise by £33.9 billion by 2023/24.”