Rishi Sunak blocking NHS recovery plan because Boris Johnson's power ‘dying', NHS chief says

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Rishi Sunak blocking NHS recovery plan because Boris Johnson’s power ‘dying’, NHS chief says
© PA Wire

Rishi Sunak is suspected of being ‘on manoeuvres’, following recent criticisms of the prime minister

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– PA Wire

Rishi Sunak has delayed a crucial plan to confront the huge NHS patient backlog because he believes Boris Johnson’s government is “dying”, a health chief says.

Global Tech News Daily

Matthew Taylor, the head of the NHS Confederation, made the extraordinary claim after the “elective recovery plan” – due to be unveiled by the prime minister and the health secretary on Monday – was shelved suddenly.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, blamed the fallout from the surge in Covid infections from the Omicron variant for the delay to the strategy to cut the waiting list of 6 million people.

Global Tech News Daily

But Mr Taylor, head of the No 10 policy unit under Tony Blair, said the episode was reminiscent of Gordon Brown throwing his weight around as Mr Blair’s power waned.

“Increasingly getting the sense that Johnson now faces the same (but more intense and short term) challenge TB had in his third term,” the NHS Confederation chief executive tweeted.

“Namely that HMT [Her Majesty’s Treasury] is loath to agree to any No 10 plans involving money as the ChX [chancellor] sees these as opportunistic and wasted on a dying administration.”

The claim comes as Mr Sunak is accused of being “on manoeuvres”, following his criticisms of the prime minister over the Partygate scandal and the Jimmy Saville smear of Keir Starmer.

Before that, the chancellor – the favourite to take over if Mr Johnson is toppled – has clashed repeatedly with No 10 over tax and other policies.

Treasury sources have briefed that Mr Sunak was unwilling to sign off on the multi-billion pound NHS recovery plan because its targets are ill-conceived.

The chancellor appears to fear that the plan will target very long waits – which attract the worst headlines – over patients who have waited less time, but need treatment more urgently.

The clash comes as Mr Johnson attempts to prop up his government with further changes at No 10, but as more Tory MPs demand a no-confidence vote in his leadership.

Mr Taylor told BBC Radio 4 that the strategy for clearing the backlog, which will take at least three years, must be made on “rational, objective grounds”.

“Clearly in any situation where the government is under political pressure, these things tend to get politicised both in the outside world and in Whitehall.”

Mr Javid denied the Treasury had held up his plan, insisting: “There has been no argument – there has been a very active discussion.”

He told BBC Breakfast: “The plan has been delayed, but it’s been delayed by Omicron,” calling the Treasury “an excellent partner”.

But he pointed to the need “when you publish something so ambitious and important that you make sure that, across the government, everything is agreed and that everyone is behind the plan”.

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