Magazine article Public Finance

Back to Black

Magazine article Public Finance

Back to Black

Article excerpt

It's that time of year again, when finance managers - faced with embarrassing underspends - suddenly discover an urgent need for new laptops, ergonomic chairs and away days. March is a month for some seriously creative number-crunching.

For many NHS trusts, it's a welcome problem to have. After a protracted period of black holes and gaping deficits, the health service is now finding itself back in the black The Department of Health is forecasting a £1.8bn surplus this year - twice the level it required (see cover feature on pages 18-21).

Instead of struggling to keep the hit squads at bay, trusts are casting around for ideas on how to spend the surplus. The NHS chief executive is talking of 'fantastic opportunities' ahead.

But, sensibly, the NHS Confederation urges caution. With leaner funding times and new prescribing pressures on services, it makes sense to put plenty away for a rainy day.

And judging from this week's critical National Audit Office report on GP contracts, it will also make sense to exercise a lot more control over how the money is spent in future.

Despite the £7.7bn ploughed into GP services last year, and an almost 60% increase in GP partner earnings (to £110,000-plus levels), practice productivity has fallen, and money has not flowed to the most deprived areas as intended. …

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