Magazine article Public Finance

NHS Payment by Results Tariff Delayed Yet Again

Magazine article Public Finance

NHS Payment by Results Tariff Delayed Yet Again

Article excerpt

The Department of Health has again delayed publication of the new NHS treatments tariff after health bodies raised concerns about its operation during testing.

NHS leaders and finance chiefs warned that lack of transparency in the proposed new tariff - which underpins the 'payment by results' hospital funding system - made it hard to calculate how income levels would change from one year to the next, or to trace the outcomes of spending within hospital trusts.

Hospitals and primary care trusts face a February 27 deadline for signing activity contracts for 2009/ 10, despite the delay to the tariff, which sets the cost for hundreds of treatments.

The tariff was originally due to be published alongside details of PCT funding allocations and the new NHS operating framework in autumn last year, but was delayed after earlier tests revealed problems.

The allocations and framework were eventually published in December, but NHS organisations struggled to assess the impact of the new financial regime without details of the tariff, which is based on a new, much more wide-ranging, costing system, dubbed HRG4.

A draft version of the new tariff was released to NHS organisations for a 'road-testing' period, which ended on January 12. The DoH had pledged to release the final version by the end of January.

But a DoH spokeswoman confirmed that the tariff will be further delayed, putting this down to the need to take account of feedback from the road-tests. 'We are very pleased with the level of engagement by the NHS in the road-testing of the national payment by results tariff? she said.

'We received a substantial amount of feedback from the service and are taking the necessary time to ensure we consider all the comments. We are working hard to ensure that a final version which meets the needs of the local NHS is available shortly The tariff is now expected in the next couple of weeks.

Speaking when the tariff was still expected by the January deadline, Healthcare Financial Management Association communications officer Chris Calkin, who is finance director at University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, said: 'Keeping to this timetable will be important if commissioners and providers are to meet the contract signing deadline of February 27.'

But he added that the complexity and 'increased granularity' of the new system meant 'rigorous road-testing is absolutely vital'. …

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