NHS organisations continue to face extreme financial pressure, according to a report published last week, with 94% of CCG finance directors and 95% of hospital trust finance directors warning there is a significant risk they will not meet their financial plans for 2017/18.
The HFMA's latest NHS financial temperature check - based on polls of finance directors across the health service - shows that CCGs are heading for an underspend of £250m, but only after the release of an £800m risk reserve fund.
Before the release of the reserve fund, more than a third of CCGs were forecasting year-end overspends, the report reveals. Across each of the four NHS regions - the North, London, Midlands and East and South areas - CCGs were on track for an overall deficit of between 0.5% and 1.2%.
CCGs said problems achieving planned savings and higher than expected acute sector costs were the top two reasons why they were struggling to achieve their financial plans for 2017/18.
Reducing unnecessary clinical variation was the top method CCGs planned to use to hit financial targets, chosen by almost nine out of 10 CCG finance managers.
More than 80% planned to cut provision of services of limited clinical value, and more than 70% said moving to new care models was among the main mechanisms they would use to hit savings targets. Around 70% planned extra investment in primary care services to help them meet financial targets.
The finding comes as NHS England GP development lead Dr Robert Varnam told GPonline that sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) would deliver extra funding to general practice.
The HFMA polling found a sharp rise in the proportion of finance directors who believe relationships between organisations in STP areas are strong enough to deliver 'cross-organisational change' in the NHS. More than half say relationships are now strong enough to manage changes, compared with 20% in December 2016.
However, only around a fifth of CCG finance directors say the quality of patient care will improve in their area in 2017/18 or 2018/19.
A total of 17% believe care will improve this financial year, compared with 28% who say it will deriorate and 55% who think it will remain the same. For 2018/19 22% say care will improve, compared with 29% who say it will worsen and 49% who believe it will stay the same.
Doctors' leaders warned last month that they believed the government had 'consciously created' the NHS crisis through sustained underfunding.
Photo: JH Lancy