New money insufficient to stop deficits and cuts

NHS England has belatedly come up with a promise of more money, which it claims would cover some of the inflation-driven costs faced by 42 new “Integrated Care Boards” (ICBs) which take over local health budgets from next month. 

But of course there’s a catch: the extra £1.5 billion announced at the end of last month will only be available to those ICBs who have already committed to more draconian cutbacks to balance the books, this year and next:

And even if all of this money is factored in, alongside hugely optimistic “efficiency savings,”  the Health Service Journal is warning ICBs will still face a combined financial gap of over £1bn this year – a substantial reversal of the £1.2bn combined surplus at the end of 2021/22, when finances were bolstered by Covid-related funding that has all been slashed back or ended since April 1.

NHSE’s chief financial officer Julian Kelly has now admitted inflation – nudging close to 10 per cent – is “much higher” than the 2.8 per cent that had been assumed when plans were drawn up. He has claimed these extra costs will be handled centrally – “but, setting that aside, we need balanced plans.”

Full story in The Lowdown, 6 June 2022