Plans to tackle NHS backlog delayed despite tax hike | Politics | News

A plan to tackle record NHS waiting lists in England has reportedly been delayed because of last-minute concerns in Whitehall. The news comes despite the Government’s plans to raise the rate of National Insurance on British workers from April, which the Government has insisted is necessary to help pay for the backlog of treatment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Treasury “blocked” Boris Johnson’s announcement for the National Recovery Plan, paid for by the hike in National Insurance, which was due to take place on Monday The Telegraph reported.

Sources from inside Downing Street have said concerns over value for money after deadlines for hitting treatment targets slipped thanks to the December and January Omicron surge.

However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has denied there are disagreements between camps in Government, and Mr Johnson said both are “working together in harmony”.

Speaking to broadcasters at the Kent Oncology Centre at Maidstone Hospital on Monday, he said: “Everybody in No 10 and the Treasury are working together in harmony to deal with the big problems that the country faces and clearing the Covid backlogs.”

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A Treasury source denied Mr Sunak had blocked the publication of the plan saying: “We didn’t block, the NHS agreed with us it’s not ready yet”.

It comes close to the planned rise in National Insurance for British workers, who will pay 1.25 percent more than current rates from April.

The hike is a direct break in the Tory 2019 election manifesto, and there have been calls to reverse the decision due to the severe cost of living crisis gripping the nation.

The Treasury has not responded directly to reports it is putting the release of the plan on hold – though a spokesperson said the Government was united in a plan to clear the record NHS backlog.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ”It is really important that we are accountable for public money that is spent, but the danger is that, if you take on targets that are unrealistic, you end up skewing clinical priorities in pursuit of those targets.”

Asked about the impact of tensions between Number 10 and the Treasury, he said: “When any government is in political difficulties, it means that these kind of policy choices get politicised in ways that are unhelpful.”

He said the NHS is “ready to get on with the plan” and said it was a “frustrating situation” – with millions waiting for routine operations.

A Government spokesman said: “We of course want value for taxpayers money and any delay is a working through of final details.”

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Now, most of those on the waiting list – just under four million – are still within the target of 18 weeks for non-urgent treatment.

But another two million have been waiting for longer than the 18 week target time, with some of them facing delays of up to a year.

A small proportion has been waiting for longer than a year.

Despite the delays to the full plan being released, one element has been announced by the Government.

‘My Planned Care’ is a new NHS service that will offer those awaiting surgery more transparency and easier access to information needed while awaiting their care.

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