NHS must achieve surplus11th December 2006
NHS trusts must free up £250m next year, says health secretary Patricia Hewitt.
It comes after reports that a number of NHS trusts are ‘technically bankrupt’.
Ms Hewitt has promised the NHS will end this year on balance, despite predictions of a £94m shortfall. She has put her political career on the line after pledging ‘personal responsibility’ for bringing the NHS out of the red.
Now NHS organisations in England have been told they must achieve a £250m surplus in 2007/8.
Alongside the savings trusts must also step up their efforts to combat hospital-acquired infections and meet new tougher targets on waiting times.
Ms Hewitt said many trusts could more than address their debts simply by increasing day-case surgery which would cut the number of beds and staff needed for overnight stays.
If trusts followed the example set by the top quarter performing hospitals, this would save £2bn across the NHS, she said.
But she accepted that some trusts would take longer than a year to break even, after the Guardian newspaper reported around 12 trusts were technically bankrupt.
She announced plans to change the NHS accounting system once the NHS was back on an even financial keel, despite calls from NHS managers to change the rules now to avoid trusts facing a double deficit, which meant paying the debt back through their budget, but also carrying it forward into the next year.
Critics fear pressure to create the surplus will mean cuts to frontline services at a time when trusts are being asked to meet more targets.
The targets mean 85 per cent of inpatients should receive treatment within 18 weeks by March 2008.
Hospitals are also to be asked to set local targets to cut infection rates, particularly Clostridium difficile where infection rates have risen in recent years. The Government has also set up a £50m central fund.
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