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Government accused of “illusory” surplus in NHS

12 November 2007

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The government has created a “largely illusory” NHS surplus by implementing “savage cuts to training and education budgets”, the Conservatives claim.

Tory health spokesman Earl Howe made the attack in the Lords during continuing debate on the Queen’s Speech.

He said: “In 2005-06, the NHS ran up a net deficit of over a billion pounds, so enormous efforts were devoted to reining in the finances in the year that followed.

“The upturn in 2006-07 was a net surplus of half a billion pounds, yet within that figure almost a quarter of NHS organisations finished the year in deficit.

“That surplus was largely illusory. It was only achieved by dint of savage cuts to training and education by strategic health authorities and by raiding public health budgets. Budgets for the maintenance of buildings were also heavily raided.

“When the upturn was announced, ministers sought to pat themselves on the back for having saved a lot of money, but if you look at how they achieved it, not many of us think it was a cause for congratulations.”

He added: “A similar point could be made about waiting time targets. Reducing waiting times is important but the target only relates to a fraction of NHS activity.

“The mammoth effort being devoted to bringing down waiting times distorts clinical priorities. It tends to suck money in from other areas of health care which are not subject to targets, such as chronic long-term conditions, emergency and maternity care.”

The Conservative Party

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Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“Our old PCG top-sliced the red-book training budgets “in our own interests” several years ago, which their successors conveniently could find no record of when the new GMS came in. That meant our MPIG was lower than it should have been and now they are suggesting they will charge us for the supply of training! I thought that the GMS negotiators secured an agreement there would be no less service provision than we had before? Perhaps we should rewrite the famous saying to read: “There are lies, damned lies and government accounting”? – Name and address supplied

“I quite agree. Money saved also from redunancies, job freezing, limited training paid for and staff no longer able to attend in work time. Unrealistic case loads given to case managers as there are no other staff to give them to. In terms of GBP, the  English health service is massively underfunded for the level of service provided. Outputs only being sustained by staff working lunch breaks, at end of shifts in the evening etc. I’m not sure how long the ‘goodwill’ will last?” – Judith Roberts, Merseyside

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