The King's Fund response to the Department of Health's annual accounts

Commenting on the publication of the Department of Health’s annual accounts for 2015/16, Richard Murray, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:

'The news that the Department of Health overspent its budget last year is further evidence of the serious financial crisis engulfing the NHS. Although the Department avoided breaching controls set by parliament on a technicality, the strong rebuke issued by the National Audit Office underlines the significance of this.

‘The overspend has happened despite additional funding from the Treasury, extensive raiding of capital budgets and the widespread use of one-off accounting measures. Many of the short-term fixes used this year cannot be repeated, and taking money out of capital budgets is reducing much-needed investment in buildings and equipment, storing up problems for the future.

‘The prospects for the current financial year are grim, with national leaders already admitting that the NHS will be in deficit again despite even more stringent controls on spending. The extension of the special measures regime, and other measures announced today, could be an opportunity to provide support for the most financially challenged NHS organisations. But it still leaves large numbers of other NHS trusts struggling to balance the books and meet key performance targets.

‘It is no longer credible to argue that the NHS can continue to meet demand for services, deliver current standards of care and stay within its budget. If the government is serious about restoring financial balance, it must review its priorities for the NHS and be honest with the public about what it can deliver with the money it has been allocated.’

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.