New cash squeeze on England’s NHS

The worsening financial plight of England’s 42 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) is widening the gulf between NHS England issuing demands for further cutbacks to balance the books and trusts struggling to make ends meet on the ground.

The situation has been worsened by the government (Treasury) refusal to allocate any additional money to the NHS to cover the extra costs of keeping services going during the repeated rounds of strike action, even though these were triggered and prolonged nationally by the government’s own stubborn refusal to negotiate on NHS pay, especially junior doctors.

NHS England has now estimated these costs as totalling around £1 billion. So in the absence of additional funds, they have had to hold back efforts to reduce the 7.7 million-strong waiting list and further cut back already pared-down plans for digitisation in order to free up £800 million to allocate towards the costs of the strikes.

But with ICS deficits estimated as £1.5 billion worse than planned in the first six months of the financial year (and the plans already skewed by ridiculous assumptions of massive savings to balance the books in many ICSs), NHS England’s new priorities until April are “to achieve financial balance, protect patient safety and prioritise emergency performance and capacity.”

Full story in The Lowdown, 29 November 2023