ICB financial squeeze set to tighten

Before the 42 Integrated Care Boards established last July have fully gathered details of their financial performance over their first nine months, it’s already clear that many if not all face a much tougher struggle to stay afloat in the new 2023/24 financial year.

NHS England heard at their March Board meeting that 16 Integrated Care Systems were forecast to overspend compared to their plan for 2022/23, with a combined forecast overspend of £517m. The Board was assured that the deficits equate to less than 1% of total allocation, and seems to have asked no more searching questions about how these results were achieved.

However this new Lowdown survey of 21 ICBs (in North East and Yorkshire, North West, South East and South West) suggests this may well be an under estimate and unrealistically optimistic on the situation ahead.

While in some areas there is little or no useful information publicly available, it shows that the reality in most areas is that deficit figures have only been reduced to the reported level after additional funding of £1.5 billion was distributed towards the costs of inflation by NHS England, and by resort to one-off “non-recurrent” measures by trusts or ICB finance directors, which effectively conceal the scale of the underlying gap between cost pressures and resources.

The problem is then the even larger challenge to bridge the gap between needs and resources the following year.

Full story in The Lowdown, 25 April 2023