Mackey abandons plan for NHS providers to balance this year

The regulator of the NHS provider sector has admitted it will not be brought into the black this year, in conflict with national requirements agreed six months ago.

Speaking exclusively to HSJ late last week, NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey said the plans agreed by trusts for 2016-17 would not show the sector overall returning to breakeven, and would be “very stretching”. He also acknowledged there were still dozens of providers that had not agreed their “control total” financial targets for the year – more than three months after the February deadline for agreement.

And he warned that plans to get the NHS overall to breakeven in 2016-17 were going to be “tight”. He suggested there might be a need – after financial plans for the year had been tested – to “go further” in the search for savings to offset the risk of things going wrong.

Mr Mackey’s comments will be controversial because 2016-17 was supposed to be the NHS’s best financial year in the current parliament. NHS England has received £5.4bn cash terms growth this year, including a £1.8bn fund earmarked for reducing or eliminating acute trust deficits.

National planning guidance in December said the NHS trust and foundation sector would be required to return to aggregate financial balance in 2016-17 after application of the bailout fund.

Full story in HSJ 31 May 2016