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NHS short by £4 billion next year, says chief

Longer wait for ops unless Hammond shells out

MORE patients than ever will languish on waiting lists unless a critical £4 billion health service funding gap is plugged in the upcoming Budget, the head of NHS England said yesterday.

The waiting list for operations will lengthen by a million to five million people by 2021 without more money for the NHS, said chief executive Simon Stevens.

One in 10 people in England will be waiting for an operation — the highest proportion ever — unless health spending increases, he added.

On current levels of funding, the NHS will not be able to make improvements in cancer care or mental health, he also told delegates at the NHS Providers conference in Birmingham.

He warned that next year, the 70th anniversary of the NHS, would be its toughest financially.

Mr Stevens said that the NHS has been so cash-starved since the Tories came into power in 2010 that it would need funding of between £20bn and £30bn a year to catch up with services in Germany, France or Sweden.

He said: “Today I set out NHS England’s independent assessment.

“It is that the budget for the NHS next year is well short of what is currently needed to properly look after our patients and their families in their time of greatest need.

“That assessment is confirmed today by the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation. They independently size next year’s funding gap at £4bn.

“They show there’s nothing out of the ordinary about needing such a sum. In their words, it’d just be a return to the average increases of the first 63 years of the NHS’s history, as against the exceptional choking-back of funding growth of the past seven years.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to present an “urgent and sustainable” funding package in his autumn Budget later this month.

He said: “Prime Minister Theresa May simply cannot carry on ignoring the dismal consequences for patient care of refusing to properly fund the NHS.

“She and Philip Hammond must now take these heavyweight warnings seriously and in the upcoming Budget finally provide the investment our NHS now desperately needs.”

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