The pandemic has, of course, placed massive pressures on the NHS, with the treatment of patients with Covid-19 creating huge backlogs in the system. In fact, the number of patients now waiting for elective surgery and routine treatment in England is at a high of over 5 million and, without intervention now, this figure could rise to 13 million by the end of the year.
As such, earlier this week, MPs voted for the Government’s plan to address these backlogs in the NHS, along with fixing the broken social care system. The Government’s plan includes a new £36 billion package, funded by a UK wide 1.25 per cent ringfenced Health and Social Care Levy, to specifically help tackle NHS backlogs and reform adult social care. This will be the biggest catch-up programme in the history of the NHS.
This package will ensure that an extra 9 million checks, scans, and operations will be provided, along with increasing NHS capacity to 110 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels by 2023-24. The NHS will aim to treat around 30 per cent more elective patients by 2024/25 than pre-Covid. This money will also help with innovations to improve the speed and quality of care, provide better screening equipment for serious diseases and digital technology for GPs to monitor patients remotely. It is worth noting that this plan for our health service comes on top of the 48 hospitals and 50 million more GP appointments that we have already committed to.
In relation to adult social care, this package will see the introduction of a new long-term solution to end the unfair and unpredictable discrepancies that have existed in the care system. We will introduce a lifetime cost cap of £86,000, which applies regardless of where you live, your age, how much you earn, or your health condition. We will also cover all care costs for anyone with assets under £20,000, along with increasing the threshold above which state support stops from £23,500 to £100,000. As such, anyone with assets between £20,000 to £100,000 will receive state contributions.
Throughout the pandemic, the government has had to make difficult decisions, not least this latest decision on how to finance this additional investment in health and social care. As the Prime Minister explained, it would be irresponsible to meet these costs from higher borrowing and higher debt. As such, from next April, the new 1.25 per cent Health and Social Care Levy on earned income will raise the almost £36 billion needed for this package over the next three years. However, I can assure residents that this money will go directly towards our health and social care system – straight to the front line.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our NHS and social care staff for all their hard work during this incredibly difficult time. We must now ensure that our health and care services receive the backing and funding they need to continue the fight against Covid and to start tackling the backlogs the virus has created. We must repair the damage inflicted by the pandemic, protect our NHS going forward and also address the challenges in adult social care.
These steps outlined by the government are absolutely right, necessary and fair and will give our health and care services the backing and funding they need to rebuild following this devastating pandemic.