NHS had £1.6bn surplus last year but more trusts in debt

The NHS reported a £1.6bn surplus last year and a total of £4bn in 'uncommitted finances', but the number of trusts in deficit rose.

Funding: NHS had surplus of £1.6bn last year
Funding: NHS had surplus of £1.6bn last year

An Audit Commission report, NHS financial year 2011/12, published today found that PCTs, SHAs and NHS trusts reported a combined underspend and surplus of £1.6bn for the last financial year.

But the number of NHS trusts and foundation trusts in deficit increased from 13 in 2010/11 to 31 in 2011/12. In 2011/12, 39 NHS trusts reported a worse financial position than the year before, and 18 NHS trusts and foundation trusts received extra money from the DH. Surplus funding held by foundation trusts cannot be reclaimed by the DH to transfer to other providers.

The Audit Commission’s managing director of health, Andy McKeon, said: ‘Overall, a combination of underspend, surpluses and non-recurrent spending in 2011/12 have given the NHS approaching £4bn in uncommitted finances, providing financial room for manoeuvre in the future.

'The NHS has also delivered the first tranche of its £20bn savings required by 2014/15. While nationally the NHS appears to be managing well financially, and preparing itself for the changes and challenges ahead, a number of PCTs and trusts are facing severe financial problems. The DH and other relevant national authorities need to focus their attention on the minority of organisations whose financial position is deteriorating, and on their geographical distribution and service standards.’

The report shows that the majority of trusts in deficit are located in London and the south-east. As a region, London reported the highest surplus nationally, but it was home to the NHS trust with the highest deficit, South London Healthcare NHS Trust.

Seven of the country’s nine PCTs with an underspend of more than £10m were in London, as were the only PCTs that failed to achieve financial balance in 2011/12, which were Barnet PCT, Enfield PCT and Haringey PCT.

This comes after an National Audit Office report in June said that half of PCTs were worried about the financial sustainability of their healthcare providers. In June’s report, the NAO said it was unclear whether clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) would provide financial support in the way that SHAs and PCTs have done.

A DH spokesman was unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.

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