Public Sector – NHS finance chiefs slam fears

NHS finance leaders have rejected claims by the Healthcare Financial Management Association that the government’s health service reforms could destabilise finances.

The HFMA last week called for greater co-ordination and guidance on implementing the New NHS white paper. Chairman Jaki Meekings said the reforms could spark financial instability without ‘realistic guidance’.

But NHS national finance director Colin Reeves told Accountancy Age: ‘The financial position of the NHS has radically improved since the reforms were promulgated and I am happy to reassure the HFMA that guidance on the issues they have raised is imminent.’

NHS finances have rallied since the reforms were introduced. The combined health service deficit was #460m on 31 March 1997. A year later it had fallen to #100m.

HFMA leaders were concerned cross-boundary flows, where patients are treated outside their own health authority, were creating tensions in the NHS, and called for specialist services and out-of-area treatments to be more clearly defined and consistently applied.

‘Only with guidance can individual health authorities across the country be expected to deliver the “New NHS” in a consistent and effective manner,’ said Meekings.

Delays in producing guidance on implementing the reforms are said to have arisen due to the complexity of the changes. Guidance is now emerging.

The NHS executive is about to put up a submission to the health minister on baselines for health authority allocations.

Allocations for health authorities are expected to be made in mid-November with primary care group allocations due not later than January.

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