NHS England may Have Underspent by £163 Million on Primary Care

Accountancy experts have wanted that NHS England may have underspent £163 million on primary care last year.

This sum of money has now been likely lost to the health service, accountants have warned.

An official finance report from NHS England demonstrates that the budgeted spend on “primary care and secondary dental” was £10.395 billion in 2015/16, but only £10.232 billion was actually spent.

This resulted in an underspend of £162.7m; effectively over 1.5% of the total budget.

It is believed that this figure can be traced back to the last budget from the treasury, at which time the government pledged to plug gaps in the overall budgetary expenditure.

Bob Senior, head of medical services at RSM, and chairman of he Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants, has confirmed that the £163 million figure is indeed accurate, very much putting the ball in the government’s court.

But Senior also indicated that this figure was not the most important aspect of the document, and instead cited the reported underspending of 62 Clinical Commissioning Groups totalling £122 million against the annual plan

This should be considered more serious and seems to be a particularly strange oversight considering the pressure currently being placed on primary care.

It would seem to be an extremely odd situation for Clinical Commissioning Groups to have underspent on services rather than allowing such monies to remain in reserve.

The finance report indicates that all told NHS England underspent by some £600 million last year.

And it seems that this money will ultimately be handed back to the Treasury, surely something that the NHS can ill afford at a time of extreme pressure on the health service.

Senior stated that he was “not certain what happens to the overall underspend of £599.4m but given the way government accounting works I rather suspect that it simply disappears back into the Treasury’s coffers to help reduce the overall public sector deficit.”

Considering the £2.5 million deficit which the NHS increase in the previous financial year, and the fact that the government has ordered £22 billion of efficiency savings from NHS trusts by the end of the decade, such an underspend is absolutely indefensible.

This is particularly true when central areas of the health service such as general practice have been significantly underfunded in the last year, with departments and practices requiring every possible penalty budgeted for by the NHS to indeed be spent on health services.

 

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