NHS in England underspends by £2.1bn

The NHS surplus for England in 2007/8 was £2.1bn - four times the figure for the previous financial year.

Photograph:J H Lancy
Photograph:J H Lancy

The underspend is revealed by the Health Committee as part of its annual inquiry into expenditure on health and social services.

The number of full time- equivalent administrators employed by the NHS in England has increased from 131,859 in 1997 to 184,888 in 2007.

The NHS National Programme for IT is expected to cost a total of £12.7bn.

The Health Committee’s public expenditure questionnaire was completed by the DoH.

The evidence it contains will form the basis of the committee’s questioning of David Nicholson, NHS chief executive, David Flory, director general of NHS finance, performance and operations, and permanent secretary Hugh Taylor in London this week.

A report by Audit Scotland last week revealed that the NHS in Scotland underspent by £26m in 2007/8.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: 'We welcome the news that the health service is on a firm financial footing but a £2.1bn surplus is £2.1bn which could have been spent on quality patient care. It is vital that the government swiftly re-invests every penny of the surplus in frontline services.'

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, said: 'NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to drive down waiting times and mortality rates. These figures show that their efforts have delivered financial success to the NHS.

'This money should not be clawed back by the Treasury. It should be reinvested in NHS facilities to drive up further improvements in the quality of care.'

neil.durham@haymarket.com

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