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COVID-19: NHS needs £12 billion to repair pandemic damage

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The pandemic has devastated the NHS The pandemic has devastated the NHS

An extra £12 billion a year is needed to invest in the NHS and care system, to recover the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found.

The report outlines the impact of COVID-19 on primary and secondary care services. It states that there have been 31 million fewer GP appointments since the pandemic began, a situation impacting people with long term conditions disproportionately.

Furthermore, an additional 4500 avoidable cancer deaths are expected this year because of pandemic disruptions, undoing at least eight years of colorectal cancer survival rate progress, six years in breast cancer survival rates, and two years in lung cancer survival progress. The proportion of cancers diagnosed while still highly curable has dropped from 44% to 41%.

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine has no serious side effects

‘The NHS has been there for us, from outbreak to vaccine. Our blueprint for reform is the booster shot it now dearly needs. A decade of austerity left our NHS running at the top of its capacity, rather than the top of its game. As a result, the consequences of the pandemic on people suffering with illnesses such as cancer and depression have been huge. There is a real risk now that this damage embeds and the NHS falls further down international rankings,’ said Dr Parth Patel, IPPR Research fellow and lead author.

‘The government wants to ‘build back better’ in health and care. This landmark report provides a costed and comprehensive plan on how to do that. It offers implementable solutions to the shrinking workforce, the crisis in care and fragmented health services.’

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The report calculates that a further £10.1 billion of investment would be needed annually, on top of the £2.2 billion COVID-19 catch-up funding, to realise the vision of a truly world-leading service and to get the NHS in England back on course to meet its own NHS Long Term Plan objectives.

‘It is high time this government backed its build back better rhetoric with tangible policy and new funding,’ said Chris Thomas, IPPR Senior Research Fellow.

‘We have among the lowest numbers of nurses, doctors and long term care workers per capita. We face thousands more cancer deaths and 12,000 more heart attacks and strokes in the coming years. The number of people with mental ill health or multiple, chronic conditions is rising sharply. We are on the very edge of a precipice of a whole decade of severe health disruption. Now is no time to be timid. We urge the government to give the NHS the boost it so desperately needs, and to protect the nation’s health in the decade to come.’

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