Commenting in response to the Public Accounts Committee's report into financial management in the NHS, King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:
'Today's report by the Public Accounts Committee highlights that if the NHS is going to survive and prosper it will need to get to grips with the underlying causes of the financial deficits. In some respects what we are seeing now is still a short-term fix for a long-standing problem.
'The committee is right that weak financial management has been one of the factors contributing to deficits. Almost one in three hospitals did not balance its books during the last financial year - some local health economies have been in a poor financial state for years and the demand to meet targets and cope with rising costs does not make resolution easy.
'The failure of the NHS to tackle underlying financial problems has been bad for patients, bad for staff and bad for the image of a great service.
'But this is not simply a tale of woe. The unprecedented levels of funding in the NHS have led to real achievements such as reduced waiting times, better cancer services and better treatment of coronary heart disease.
'And there is now a wide acceptance that the NHS needs to strengthen its financial management and commercial rigour and some signs that it is starting to do so, especially in the more autonomous NHS Foundation Trust hospitals.
'This will be critical as the days of massive growth in NHS funding come to an end in 2008. If it is to thrive and survive the NHS must do it all it can now to gets its financial house in order or it will not meet the huge challenges ahead.'
Notes to editors:
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