Good morning. Today the government was expected to announce its NHS “elective recovery plan”, giving details of the timetable for tackling the backlog of 6m operations and procedures that has build up during the pandemic. In a crowded field, this is almost at the top of the list of momentous challenges facing Boris Johnson.
But publication of the plan has been held up. This is how my colleague Denis Campbell explains it in our overnight story.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was expected to publish the “elective recovery plan” detailing measures to tackle the 6 million backlog, on Monday. That, however, has been delayed for a second time by a fresh bout of wrangling between NHS England and the government over how demanding the targets imposed on hospitals should be.
The disagreement centres on the deadline by which NHS trusts will have to have treated all those who have been waiting either one year or two years for care, usually an operation. “Conversations about the targets have become protracted and difficult. The Treasury wants a certain scale of ambition, they want tougher targets than NHS England thinks is feasible,” said an NHS source.
Another NHS source said: “There will be an aim to end 104-week waiters by the end of March. And nobody will wait more than a year for treatment by March 2025, but the government are trying to bring that forward to March 2024, and that is still being negotiated.”
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has been giving interviews this morning and he effectively admitted that ongoing negotiations were to blame for the last-minute hold-up. But he said he would not describe it as a row. He told the Today programme:
There’s been no argument. There’s been a very active discussion, within both the NHS and my department, to collectively agree on an elective recovery plan.
Javid also said that the rise of the Omicron variant was the main reason for the delay. And he rejected claims that the Treasury was being difficult. He told BBC Breakfast:
The Treasury is an excellent partner. No department in government works as a silo and it will always be much more effective when we work together and I’m very fortunate, we have a great relationship with the Treasury.
I can just tell you from my own personal experience having been chancellor, having the Treasury working with you in partnership makes a huge amount of difference and and that’s plain to see when you look at the billions of pounds of investment we’re putting into the NHS and social care.
I will post more from Javid’s interviews shortly.
The hold-up comes as Boris Johnson continues his shake-up of the Downing Street operation and anxiously waits to see whether he can get to Thursday, when the Commons starts a mini, half-term recess, with a no confidence vote being triggered. It is possible that more MPs may go public today to say they have submitted a letter calling for a ballot. And there are claims that Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, may publish fresh claims today intended to undermine the PM.
Here is my colleague Rowena Mason’s latest story on Johnson’s situation.
Here is the agenda for the day.
11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
2.30pm: Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
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