United Kingdom

UK plans 6 billion pound package to boost health service capacity

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Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivers a speech during the annual Conservative Party Conference, in Manchester, Britain, October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - British finance minister Rishi Sunak's budget this week will include an extra 5.9 billion pounds ($8.1 billion) of spending for the health service over the next few years to drive down waiting lists, the finance ministry said on Sunday.

The sum comes on top of an 8 billion pound package announced in September to tackle backlogs built up over the COVID-19 pandemic, the finance ministry said.

The spending is aimed at increasing what is termed elective activity in the National Health Service (NHS) - such as scans and non-emergency procedures - by 30% by the 2024/25 financial year.

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It comprises 2.3 billion pounds for testing services, 2.1 billion pounds to improve the technology behind the health service, and 1.5 billion pounds to increase bed capacity.

"This is a game-changing investment in the NHS to make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to get patients the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future," Sunak said in a statement.

On Saturday, the government said the budget would include 5 billion pounds to fund health research and 3 billion pounds for education. read more

Sunak is expected to set fairly tight limits for most areas of day-to-day public spending in his budget on Wednesday, which will seek to lower public debt after a record surge in borrowing during the pandemic. read more

($1 = 0.7272 pounds)

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Reporting by Andy Bruce Editing by Frances Kerry

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