Regarding NHS Debts
According to figures contained in the National Audit
Office's summary of NHS accounts published this week, the financial deficits
facing health authorities and hospitals are set to worsen. NHS debt went down
slightly in the financial year up to March 1999, NHS health authorities and
hospital trusts ended up with a combined deficit of £18m. Predictions for
1999-2000, the financial year which ended last month, show a huge increase to a
debt of £200m.
Commenting on the figures, David Davis MP, Chairman of the
House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, said: "The report shows
there are real and serious financial pressures facing the NHS in England. Half
of the 100 health authorities recorded a deficit in 1998-99, and one in four
NHS trusts." In fact, according to the report, one in five health
authorities and one in eight hospital or community trusts were officially
classed as being in "serious financial difficulty".
The potential cost of legal action against the NHS in March
1999 was £2.4bn an increase of £600m from the previous year.
However, this could increase by another £1bn when some unreported cases
are taken into account. Health Secretary Alan Milburn, following a speech at
the Royal College of Nursing congress in Bournemouth, denied that negligence
claims could divert the government's plans for NHS reform. He said: "Of
course there are clinical negligence claims in the NHS, and we deal with these.
But nobody should get the idea that we in any way, shape or form are being
detracted from what we want to do or what nurses want to do, which is
Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation,
which represents health authorities and trusts, said the governments
recent allocation of £600m to the NHS would address the income and
expenditure gap for this year. The Confederation had also been told that the
remaining £1.4bn that government has yet to allocate may partly be used on
a one-off basis to pay off a proportion of NHS debts. Mr Thornton said:
"Had we not had the new money a fortnight ago the NHS could well have been
in serious financial difficulties, but now we can look forward to carrying out
the long term modernisation of the service."
The British Medical Association has called for these debts
to be written off using a slice of the extra billions for the NHS announced in
Chancellor Gordon Brown's Budget last month.
NHS debt: figures
1998-99: £18m combined deficit
1999-2000: £200m predicted combined deficit
50% of health authorities had deficit in 1998-99
20% of health authorities, 12% of trusts in "serious financial
Potential medical negligence bill, March 1999: £2.4bn