Money spent on Test and Trace couldn’t fund 15% NHS pay increase for 35 years

12 July 2023
What was claimed

The money spent on NHS Test and Trace would have paid for a 15% pay rise for every NHS worker from now until 2058.

Our verdict

This is incorrect. Based on the most recent government figures, the £37 billion Test and Trace budget—which was not all spent—would only pay for a 15% rise for NHS hospital and community health service staff for about four years.

A number of posts claiming the money spent on the Covid-19 Test and Trace programme could fund a 15% pay rise for every NHS worker for 35 years have been shared on social media again.

Posts shared on Facebook a number of times in early July said: “The money the Tories wasted on the failed Test & Trace would have paid for a 15% pay rise for every NHS worker from now until 2058.”

And an image posted to Facebook in May contains the claim: “The money the Tories spaffed on Test & Trace would have paid for a 15% pay rise for every NHS worker from now until 2058.” This wording is identical to a viral claim we looked at in January.

These claims are not true. As we’ve written many times before, the total budget over two years for NHS Test and Trace was £37 billion, however not all of that money was used. Even if it had been, the cost of funding a 15% pay rise for every NHS worker for the next 35 years would likely be significantly higher.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

I’m in

What was the cost of NHS Test and Trace?

The £37 billion figure often quoted as the cost of the Test and Trace programme refers to the budget allocated for the scheme in its first two years.

However, according to the National Audit Office, as of June 2022 approximately £25.7 billion had actually been spent on the programme, with an estimated lifetime cost of £29.3 billion.

How much would a 15% pay rise cost?

According to government figures, in the 2021/22 financial year NHS providers in England spent approximately £66.2 billion on pay for permanent and bank hospital and community healthcare staff. But this figure is not the total staff costs for the health service because it excludes NHS workers not working in hospital and community health settings.

Health is devolved, so these figures will only relate to the costs of staffing in England.

Taking the £66.2 billion spend and increasing it by 15% would cost approximately £9.9 billion more.

Very roughly, the estimated lifetime cost of the Test and Trace programme (£29.3 billion) would pay for this increase for only around three years. The total budget (£37 billion) could have paid for it for around four years, not 35 as the posts claim.

Calculating the precise impact of increasing NHS pay by 15% would also have to factor in things like total NHS spend on pay (not just hospital and community healthcare staff), pay growth, as well as tax and pension implications.

Image courtesy of Annie Spratt.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.