Javid denies Treasury held up NHS plan to tackle backlog of patients on hospital waiting lists

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has denied reports that a plan to tackle the backlog of patients on hospital waiting lists in England has been put on hold amid claims of wrangling at the top of Government.

The wide-ranging plan by NHS England to get down the record six million patients waiting for non-urgent operations and procedures had reportedly been expected on Monday.

However the Daily Telegraph said the Treasury had refused to sign off on the measures, despite detailed discussions with No 10, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the NHS.

The paper quoted sources as citing concerns over value for money after deadlines for hitting treatment targets slipped as a result of the Omicron surge.

Mr Javid told Sky News that the plan will be published “shortly” and that he did not recognise reports that it was being held up by the Treasury.

“We will publish the plan shortly. What I would say about the Treasury is that I couldn’t wish for a better partner when it comes to the challenges I have. I don’t recognise that at all,” he said.

“Having been chancellor, having a close relationship with the Treasury, having a strong partnership for any department is crucial, and right now for health and care I am just really pleased we have got that really good working relationship.”

The reported wrangling comes at a time of heightened tension between No 10 and the Treasury.

Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak publicly distanced himself from a widely discredited claim by Boris Johnson that Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was director of public prosecutions.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation who previously advised Tony Blair, said the situation is reminiscent of the end of the Blair years.

“Increasingly getting the sense that Johnson now faces the same (but more intense and short term) challenge Tony Blair had in his third term,” he tweeted.

“Namely that HMT is loath to agree to any No 10 plans involving money as the Chancellor sees these as opportunistic and wasted on a dying administration.”

Mr Javid said they had originally intended to publish the plan in December but it had been put on hold because of the Omicron outbreak.

Meanwhile, the DHSC announced details of a new NHS website which patients will be able to access ahead of planned operations to see waiting times information for their trust.

The My Planned Care platform is due to go live on the NHS website later in February, and will be accessible to patients, family members, carers and medical professionals.

Mr Taylor said it is “frustrating” that the main plan has yet to be published and expressed concern that it should not contain “unrealistic” targets for reducing the backlog.

“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,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“This is a frustrating situation for the NHS because there is a plan, it has been agreed with leaders, we are ready to go with it and we want to get on with the work.”

Mr Javid acknowledged that the plan will include targets, but said they have to be deliverable.

“We will have some kinds of targets in the new elective recovery plan. Those targets have to be based on clinical need and something that we believe across Government can be delivered,” he told Today.

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