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In his Budget, the Chancellor will direct a “significant investment” to wipe out the tests and scans backlog left by Covid. At least 100 community diagnostic centres will slash waiting times for clinical tests including MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans.
His package will also include more than £2billion for digital technology to allow healthcare staff to focus on patient care.
The flagship measures will be at the heart of a Budget and Spending Review on Wednesday focused on building a “strong economy”.
Billions will be spent on public services and infrastructure despite the intense pressure on the public finances left by the pandemic.
And the Chancellor told the Daily Express last night it will mean most of the backlog will be cleared by the next election, expected in 2023 or 2024.
He said: “The NHS has delivered truly world-class care through the last 18 months and I applaud the heroic health care professionals who have been at the forefront of the crisis.
“As we bounce back from the pandemic it’s vital we cut waiting lists and ensure those who need help and treatment get it as soon as possible.
“This significant investment will be a major boost for millions of people waiting for checks and treatment as a result of the pandemic ‑ and is expected to help clear most backlogs for diagnostic tests and scans by the end of the parliament.
“We’re also pumping more than £2billion into digital technology to free up more time for our dedicated NHS staff so they can concentrate on giving the world-leading care they are renowned for.”
Latest NHS England figures show 5.7 million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of August ‑ the highest number since records began in 2007.
Of those, 9,754 people had been waiting more than two years, compared with 2,722 in April.
On Wednesday the Chancellor will set out the major investment in NHS capital funding that will support the aim to deliver around 30 percent more non-emergency treatment by 2024-25 compared with pre-pandemic levels.
It will mean millions more checks, scans and procedures for non-emergency patients.
Around £2.3 billion of the funding package will be used to transform diagnostic services with new “one-stop-shop” community diagnostic centres across England.
Forty-four of the centres were previously announced but the Budget will announce that more than 100 will be set up in total.
They will make it quicker and easier for patients to get tests and scans closer to their homes, helping to catch cancer and other life-threatening conditions as quickly as possible and save more lives.
The centres are expected to help clear most existing test backlogs caused by the pandemic, including for CT, MRI and ultrasound scans, by the end of the parliament.
This additional capacity will also ensure the resilience of our diagnostic services in the years to come.
Mr Sunak said: “We are committed to getting health services back on track and ensuring no one is left waiting for vital tests or treatment.
“This is a game-changing investment in the NHS to make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to get patients the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our phenomenal NHS has worked so hard to keep people safe during the pandemic and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure people are getting the treatment they need as quickly as possible.
“This £6billion investment will support the delivery of millions more checks, scans and procedures for patients across the country.
“Business as usual won’t be enough, that’s why we are going to reform care with more community diagnostic centres, new surgical hubs and the latest technology to help recover NHS services by tackling waiting lists.”
The package also includes £1.5billion for increased bed capacity, equipment and new surgical hubs to tackle waiting times for elective surgeries.
Each hub will be equipped with four to five surgical theatres designated for critical elective surgeries.
This cash comes on top of the £500million capital investment in 2021-22 to help restore elective services.
Some £2.1billion of the £6billion total will be invested in technology and data to free up valuable NHS staff time.
New and improved information technology will help NHS staff access the fastest broadband.
Digital patient records will be designed to ensure patients get the best care wherever they are.
The £6billion comes on top of £8billion announced in September to tackle the elective backlog over the next three years and the £97billion-plus extra funding to support health and care since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Mr Javid is aiming to make Covid jabs mandatory for all NHS staff and a condition of employment “as soon as possible”, Whitehall sources indicated.
He is understood to be convinced the move would protect vulnerable patients from catching the virus in hospitals.
Figures suggest around seven percent of NHS staff in England have not been vaccinated.
Mr Javid is also said to be keen to roll out Covid booster jabs for people under 50 after Christmas.
He tweeted yesterday: “More than 325,000 booster jabs were given in England yesterday.
“That’s our biggest day yet ‑ thank you to everyone who came forward and all those delivering the rollout.”
A Government consultation on Mr Javid’s plans for compulsory vaccinations for NHS staff is being carried out. It is due to go before ministers soon.
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