There are currently around 110,000 vacancies in the NHS.
The Health and Social Care Levy coming into effect today aims to raise billions to help tackle the Covid backlogs and reform the adult social care system.
However, many are concerned that the soaring inflation will render the NI levy unable to deliver what it was intended to do.
The gov.co.uk website outlines the measure as:
“This measure provides for a temporary 1.25 percentage point increase to both the main and additional rates of Class 1, Class 1A, Class 1B and Class 4 National Insurance contributions for the 2022 to 2023 tax year and revenue raised will go directly to support the NHS and equivalent bodies across the UK.”
A growing concern over expectations and resources
Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation, Dr Layla McCay, says: “Health leaders will never take for granted the additional funds that have been given to the NHS and they will do everything within their power to put it to best use for their patients.
“However, the simple truth is that with rising costs and inflation, on top of the NHS having to absorb Covid costs that were previously paid for by the Government, the new levy is now worth, and will deliver, less.
“The Government must wake up to the reality that the ambitious targets accompanying this extra investment will not be possible without decisive action to improve the workforce crisis across health and social care. In England, there are currently around 110,000 vacancies in the NHS and around 105,000 in social care.
“As the country learns to ‘live with Covid’, the NHS is seeing the impact of this with one in thirteen people now infected with the virus in England and hospital admissions close to the peak seen in January. This has a direct knock-on effect on the NHS’s ability to tackle waiting lists, which would not have been expected when the levy was set nearly six months ago.
“Also, it comes as social care services continue to feel exasperated that they have not received the investment they need right now to keep up with demand and deliver what their service users desperately require.
“There is an emerging gap between what the NHS and social care is being asked to deliver and the resources services have, which leaders are growing increasingly concerned about, particularly when it affects public expectations and satisfaction to the levels seen recently.”
How is Covid-19 exacerbating this situation?
In England, there are currently nearly 20,000 people in hospital with Covid-19.
“[I]t’s particularly concerning to note the unprecedented and still rising levels in older people,” says Dr McCay.
The NHS’s “exhausted staff, are once again really struggling to cope with increasing admissions and bed occupancy.
“NHS leaders and their teams are increasing their Covid services and reopening coronavirus wards, but the Government must take heed, combined with chronic staff shortages, and a waiting list backlog that now tops 6.1m, we really need a realistic conversation about the current situation in the health service.
“Rather than setting unreasonable, unrealistic and over-ambitious targets that do little to tangibly support and improve health services for patients right now, the government needs to come clean with the public about what they can expect from the NHS now and in the months ahead,” concludes Dr McCay.
NHS leaders will therefore make best use of this extra funding, but the soaring inflation essentially means the NI levy is worth significantly less.