Public Sector – FDs question NHS winter plan

NHS finance chiefs have given a cautious welcome to chancellor Gordon Brown’s Pre-Budget report which gave an extra #250m ‘winter cash’ to the health service.

The Healthcare Financial Management Association welcomed the cash injection, but chair Jaki Meekings, FD of Wiltshire health authority, said the capacity of the NHS to absorb the large sum within such a short timescale needed to be addressed.

‘It is important that the money is targeted at known areas of pressure – for instance, areas with bed blocking or those suffering financial pressures,’ she said.

Meekings also questioned whether health authorities – which have to meet annual cash and income expenditure targets – would be able to spend the extra money before the end of the financial year.

‘Because health authorities have two spending targets, there would be quite a pressure on us to meet both. The best way to use this money effectively would be to put it into social services,’ she added.

The adequacy of the #250m top-up to meet winter pressures would be dependent on the severity of the unpredictable winter weather this year, Meekings said.

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