Monday, December 11, 2006

from theBBC website this morning

NHS 'must make surplus next year'

The NHS's first target is to balance the books this year

The government is to tell the NHS in England it must achieve a £250m surplus next year.

The service ended the last financial year £512m in deficit, but Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has pledged to balance the books this year.

However, the latest predictions are that there will be a £94m shortfall.

The government will also set out new targets for tackling hospital infection and on meeting the 18-week target for waits from GP appointment to operation.

In November, Ms Hewitt told the Health Select Committee she would take "personal responsibility" for bringing the NHS out of deficit.

However hospitals and primary care trusts - in charge of community services such as GPs - in particular have already been found to be building up big debts.

There are concerns from health unions that the need to drive down deficit levels, rather than a desire to improve services, are fuelling some of the service re-organisations which are currently being planned, such as closing or downgrading some A&E units.

Cases increasing

Professor Chris Ham, a health policy expert at the Health Services Management Centre in Birmingham, said the £250m surplus target was "very ambitious".