The NHS deficit in England has more than doubled in the last year to GBP 512 million, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced last night.
The unaudited figure is more than double the GBP 221million for last year. But a joint report by the Audit Commission and National Audit Office into NHS finances warned that the audited figure could turn out to be much higher.
Nearly a third of the 566 NHS organisations failed to break even in the year 2005/06 but Ms Hewitt said most of the deficit was concentrated in one tenth of NHS bodies.
The figures showed that primary care trusts (PCTs) and acute trusts overspent by more than GBP 1 billion. But strategic health authorities (SHAs) managed to save money. They underspent by GBP 524million.
Which? health campaigner Sara Apps said: ‘It’s clear that we’re in a period of upheaval for the NHS in England. Throughout all of this, it is important that the immediate needs of patients don’t get lost while NHS organisations struggle to get to grips with the new reforms.’
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the deficit amounted to less than 1 per cent of the overall NHS budget and vowed to be ‘held accountable’ if the NHS wasn’t balancing its books by March next year.
She said: ‘The NHS is now stabilising this financial problem while continuing to improve services for patients.’
More than 12,000 job losses have been announced since early March but Ms Hewitt disputed that there would be widespread redundancies.
Doctors’ leaders have blamed the deficit on bad policy decisions and political interference.
‘Billions wasted’ on private sector
Paul Miller, Chairman of the British Medical Association’s consultant committee, said the involvement of the private sector and the use of management consultants had cost the NHS billions.
He said the government had spent billions on contracts with private companies running independent sector treatment sectors that provide extra capacity that was neither used nor needed.