Public Accounts Committee Urges Government Focus on Financial Challenges

The Public Accounts Committee has weighed in on what it deems to be unsavoury public bickering between Theresa May and the NHS.

This conduct should be considered an “insult to taxpayers” considering the serious financial challenges facing the healthcare system, the influential parliamentary committee asserted.

Despite the perilous financial position of many trusts, most have been unable to craft an explicit plan to revisers the situation, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

Public Accounts Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier suggested that the financial picture for many NHS trusts is exceedingly gloomy.

“The NHS as we know it is under threat from growing and unsustainable financial pressures. Few trusts feel they have a credible plan for meeting the financial targets they have been set by Government. At the same time, the Government seems unable to get its own house in order, plundering NHS investment funds to plug holes elsewhere, and falling out in public over its longer-term strategy.”

The comments from the committee follow clashes between NHS chief executive Simon Stevens and prime minister Theresa May.

And the aforementioned Hillier suggested that the conduct of the government has been puerile, and that it was fundamentally failing to meet its responsibilities.

“Contradictory statements about funding from the Prime Minister and head of NHS England are an insult to taxpayers who deserve an honest, grown-up conversation about future finance and service provision. Government’s rigid adherence to a set of stock lines about funding, in the face of mounting evidence its plan isn’t up to the job, is not it. It is inconceivable the Government would allow a catastrophic failure in the NHS and we expect it to take targeted action now to support NHS bodies facing severe financial problems.”

Responding to the criticism, a spokeswoman on behalf of the NHS conceded that there are escalating pressures on the NHS hierarchy, but asserted that a broad agreement had now been reached.

“To that end, the NHS delivery plan being published at the end of March will clearly set out the NHS’s realistic and agreed game plan for the next two years”.

While the financial picture of the NHS may have improved somewhat from the previous financial year, NHS trusts still reported a collective deficit in the region of £900 million following the first three quarters of the fiscal year.

Thus, the health service is not on track to meet its year-end deficit target of £580m.

Nonetheless, the NHS spokeswoman reiterated the determination of the healthcare authorities to balance the books while delivering outstanding care.

“We are united behind the ambition to make the NHS the safest, highest-quality healthcare system in the world, which also means ensuring financial sustainability for the future, and the hospital sector’s financial position has now improved by £1.3bn compared to this time last year, with 44 fewer trusts in deficit.”

 

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