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On Wednesday, Sunak unveiled his summer statement – a bundle of packages designed to help the economy recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) – a union for doctors in the UK – said the chancellor had ignored the health service in his new financial plans.
“Given this statement was made amid the worst global health crisis in living memory, and the government’s previous promise to give the NHS ‘whatever it needs’, the absence of any new commitment to significant health investment in the speech is quite frankly astonishing,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.
Earlier in the year, the NHS was given a cash injection to help it deal with the pandemic, Nagpaul said, but he added: “We cannot afford for this to be a one-off sticking plaster.”
According to the Treasury, the government has pledged almost £32bn during the crisis to help the NHS tackle coronavirus.
“Doctors and their colleagues have spent the last four months giving their all, often putting their own health at risk, battling this virus on the frontline,” Nagpaul added.
He warned that – without more financial support from the government – the NHS could be in a precarious position ahead of a potential second wave of coronavirus.
“Even before this crisis, a decade of underinvestment had resulted in record waits for care, a severely depleted medical workforce and services barely able to cope,” Nagpaul said.
“If the NHS is to not only meet the needs of patients who have had care suspended during the pandemic but also to be ready for a possible second wave, the government must bring forward significant further investment as a matter of urgency.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Treasury said the chancellor set out on Wednesday what the government is doing to support the NHS during the coronavirus crisis in his Plan For Jobs document.
The document reads: “At the Budget on March 11, the chancellor pledged to provide the NHS and other public services with the support they need to respond to Covid-19.
“Delivering on this pledge, HM Treasury has so far approved £48.5 billion of additional expenditure on public services for the immediate response to COVID-19.”
According to the Treasury, this includes £31.9bn for health services, including more than £15bn for PPE, £10bn for the NHS test and trace scheme and more than £1bn for additional ventilators.
The criticism from the BMA comes the day after MPs warned that the government still does not have “robust” plans in place to make sure hospitals and care homes have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) in the event of a second peak in Covid-19 cases.
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said ministers were not treating the issue with “sufficient urgency”, calling on the government to set out detailed plans in the next two months.
“We are extremely concerned by the widely reported shortages of personal protective equipment faced by NHS and care workers during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the committee said.
“Although the department says it is committed to building up PPE stocks to meet longer-term demand, we are not convinced that it is treating the matter with sufficient urgency or that the procurement is robust enough.
“It is absolutely vital that the same problems do not happen again in the event of a second wave.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said it would continue to give the NHS “whatever it needs” to protect it for the future.
But in a response to the PA news agency, it said it did not accept the committee’s findings on the supply of PPE.
“We have been working around the clock to deliver PPE to the front line throughout this global pandemic, working with industry, the NHS and the armed forces to create a distribution network to supply over 58,000 settings,” a spokesperson said.
“Two billion items of PPE have now been delivered and almost 28 billion items have been ordered from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply, which will meet the future needs of health and social care staff.”