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NHS surpluses “must not be allowed to threaten patient care”

21 May 2009

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Patient care must not suffer because money is allowed to lie unspent in NHS bank accounts, says the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Although it praises the fact most NHS bodies were in surplus – £1.67bn overall in 2007/08 – patients may be at risk “because less healthcare is provided than might have been”.

Says the report: “Managing this risk requires NHS bodies to be more adept at forecasting demand for healthcare, budgeting in a way that best matches resources to activity levels, while having the flexibility to shift resources quickly as new priorities arise.”

The chairman, Tory MP Edward Leigh, said that while the NHS has pledged to find £15bn in savings over the next three years, money must not be “sitting unspent” in bank accounts.

The 2007/08 surplus was originally forecast to be £916m, compared with £515m in 2006/07. Only 3% of NHS organisations – 11 out of 340 – reported a deficit in 2007/08 compared with 22% in 2006/07.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Financial Management in the NHS report