NHS must do more to tackle underlying causes of deficits - The King's Fund response to NHS financial performance report

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Responding to the latest NHS quarterly financial performance report, The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'The latest figures indicate the NHS overall is on track to balance its books by the end of the financial year. But once again the figures reveal the NHS is forecasting a significant gross deficit of around £1.3billion – almost exactly the same as last year’s outturn.

'The goal this year has been to ensure that the NHS as a whole makes a net surplus - turning around last year's net deficit of £547million. By holding back around £1.6billion from PCT and other budgets this year the NHS will achieve this goal. But financial performance across NHS organisations remains variable; in part as a result of these tactics, nearly half of all PCTs and a third of trusts forecast a deficit by the end of this year - an increase on last year.

'Although around half of the 123 NHS organisations reporting a deficit last year are now forecasting a surplus or to break even, many that were in surplus last year are now forecasting a deficit. In an attempt to spread the load and share the solution, the Department of Health has created problems for many PCTs.

'Today's figures once again highlight 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. There is a need now to tackle low productivity, and deal with the widespread and often unexplained variations in performance. For some organisations this will demand a very different approach to delivery.'

Notes to editors

1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund press office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.

2. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.