NHS waiting lists could hit 13million and take seven years to clear without an extra £10billion of funding per year, health bosses warn.
Patients face being ‘condemned to further pain and delays to treatment’ if ministers fail to recognise the ‘seismic’ impact Covid has had on services, it is claimed.
The stark warning comes as the government finalises future NHS funding as part of its spending review, with a decision expected as soon as next week.
The NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, which represent NHS organisations, says patients are ‘genuinely in peril’ and the nation’s health is dependent on the outcome.
Gains in cancer treatment and heart care in recent years could stall and advances in mental health services could slip backwards without the cash, they add.
Bosses at the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers say patients are ‘genuinely in peril’ and that £10billion in funding a year is needed to help clear the backlog on NHS waiting lists
The NHS waiting list in England already stands at a record 5.5million, with more than 300,000 waiting over a year for treatment.
This is expected to climb as millions of people who delayed or were unable to seek care during the pandemic come forward.
Operations, scans and appointments were cancelled as the NHS focused on treating Covid patients and many people were scared to attend hospital for fear of catching the virus.
The NHS Confederation and NHS Providers says the NHS now needs between £3.5billion and £4.5billion each year for the next three years to recover from this backlog.
And they say a further £4billion to £5billion is needed each year to cover additional costs arising from the pandemic.
This includes buying more PPE, meeting rising demand from sicker patients, and hiring temporary staff to cover those who are unable to work due to sickness or self-isolation.
The funding should be in addition to the costs of delivering the Government’s manifesto commitments of building 40 new hospitals and reforming social care, as well as meeting ongoing costs such as NHS Test and Trace and Covid vaccines, they add.
The costings are laid out in a new report by the two organisations, which is based on a survey of bosses at England’s 213 hospital, mental health, community and ambulance trusts.
Bosses say the Health Service needs between £3.5billion and £4.5billion each year for the next three years to recover from this backlog and a further £4billion to tackle the pandemic costs
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘NHS frontline funding for 2022/23 needs to rise by around £10billion in addition to capital, social care and central Government covid costs.
‘Trust leaders are worried that anything short of £10billion next year will force them to cut services.
‘They are worried that, despite best efforts at the frontline, the 13million 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.’
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: ‘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.’
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Government decisions about NHS funding are being made at a time when patients are increasingly finding it difficult to access the service they need.
‘Patients can’t afford the Chancellor to make a bad call when it comes to funding the NHS at this moment.
‘Even before the pandemic, the waiting lists were rising and now there is a massive backlog in patients waiting for care.
‘Many hospitals also need repairs and upgrades, neither primary nor secondary care have enough staff, and winter-like pressures are there all year round.
‘We have said repeatedly, the NHS has to be adequately funded and adequately staffed to meet the health needs of its patients.
‘The warnings from NHS Confederation and NHS providers should be taken seriously.’
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association, said: ‘The NHS is facing a magnitude of demand that is unprecedented in its history.
‘The consequence of the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19 will require exceptional levels of funding.
‘The Government has a moral duty to commit to giving the NHS ‘whatever it needs’ as per the Chancellor’s own words.
‘Failing to provide adequate resources will result in more patients suffering, their health deteriorating, and in many cases not surviving.’
Judy Abel, policy manager at Versus Arthritis, said: ‘Eliminating the huge backlog due to Covid-19 could not be more urgent.
‘Every day, at Versus Arthritis we speak to people waiting for joint replacement surgery in unbearable pain – their lives put on hold.’
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on cancer services and the impact is still being felt.
‘Despite some signs of recovery, the UK could face the prospect of cancer survival going backwards for the first time in decades as thousands of people remain without a cancer diagnosis or waiting for treatment.
‘For years, workforce shortages and crumbling infrastructure have meant cancer services have struggled to cope, and the upcoming spending review is a critical opportunity to fix these chronic issues.’
Eve Bryne, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Urgent action is needed to ensure everyone with cancer is diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible, as waiting too long could reduce a person’s chance of survival and cause serious distress.
‘This is a huge task for a system that was already overstretched before the pandemic.
‘It is vital that the Government provides the long-term investment needed to grow and support the hard-working cancer care workforce, so it can tackle the challenges that lie ahead and provide the support people with cancer need, now and in the future.’
The Government 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 £29billion to support health and care services, including an extra £1billion to tackle the backlog.
‘This is on top of our historic settlement for the NHS in 2018, which will see its budget rise by £33.9billion by 2023/24.’