Test and Trace spend wouldn’t fund a 15% pay rise for NHS staff until 2058

24 January 2023
What was claimed

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

Our verdict

The total budget for NHS Test and Trace was £37 billion, not all of which has actually been spent. A 15% increase in spending on just NHS England hospital and community staff would cost approximately £9.4 billion, meaning the total spent on Test and Trace would not come close to paying for this for 35 years.

A viral claim circulating on social media suggests that money spent by the government on the Covid-19 Test and Trace programme could be used to give every NHS worker a 15% pay rise for the next 35 years.

This isn’t true. As we’ve written before, the total budget for NHS Test and Trace was £37 billion, however not all of that money was used, and even if it had been, the cost of funding a 15% pay rise for every NHS worker for the next 35 years would be significantly higher.

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Test and Trace cost

We’ve previously fact checked a number of social media posts about the cost of the NHS Test and Trace programme.

The £37 billion figure often used to refer to the cost of Test and Trace was the total budget allocated for the entire 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.

Pay rise cost

It’s unclear how much the NHS spends in total on staff costs, but according to government figures, in the 2020/21 financial year NHS England spent approximately £62.5 billion on pay for hospital and community staff.

However, not all NHS England staff are included in this figure, which covers hospital and community staff, but excludes some other NHS workers, such as GPs. 

Health is a devolved matter, so these figures only relate to the costs in England.

Increasing just this spend by 15% would cost approximately £9.4 billion more.

The total Test and Trace budget of £37 billion would therefore pay for this increase for around four years, while the estimated actual lifetime cost of Test and Trace (£29.3 billion) would pay for this increase for only around three years.

These figures are very rough. In reality, the true cost of increasing NHS pay by 15% would have to factor in things like the amount that would be returned in tax from higher NHS salaries, as well as higher long-term pension liabilities.

It would also need to use an estimate of the total spend on NHS pay, not just the spend on hospital and community staff in England presented above.

But as an illustration, the figures clearly show that the amount spent on Test and Trace is nowhere near the amount needed to raise NHS staff pay by 15% for 35 years.

Image courtesy of John Cameron

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