The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for failing to deliver on his previous promise to give the NHS “whatever it needs” to grapple with the impact of the coronavirus.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told the Treasury earlier this week that an extra £10 billion ($12 billion) is needed to shore up hospitals’ preparedness for next winter and a possible second spike in COVID-19 infections, as well as restart non-coronavirus releated treatments.
In this context, The Observer cited unnamed senior officials as saying that HNS bosses hoped to clinch a funding deal with Sunak by Sunday, the 72nd anniversary of the NHS’s creation, but that the negotiations had come to a standstill after the chancellor refused to allocate the cash.
“There's a row going on. It's quite difficult. There's a problem here. There's arm wrestling going on between the NHS and the government. But the Treasury are playing hardball and aren't prepared to stump up the money”, one of the officials argued.
Another source asserted that the NHS and the government are “at complete loggerheads”, adding, "there’s an impasse at the moment; there’s no settlement and no agreement”.
The view was supported by one more official who claimed that “there's a very, very significant difference between the phrase ‘the NHS will get whatever it needs’ and the behaviour now being exhibited by the Treasury”.
He previously kept mum on how much in additional resources the NHS would get, at the same time signalling the government's readiness to write a blank cheque to help the health service cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
The NHS-Treasury row comes amid the UK's step-by-step efforts to ease the coronavirus lockdown, with one such major relaxation coming into force on Saturday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted the measure as the "biggest step yet on the road to recovery", but warned that the spike in coronavirus infections in Leicester proved that "we are not out of the woods yet”.
He made it plain that he will “not hesitate in putting on the brakes” and bring back stricter confinement measures if the infection rates again spike in the UK. With 44,131 fatalities, the country's COVID-19 death toll is the world's third-largest after the US and Brazil, according to the World Health Organisation's latest estimates.