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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 00:08 GMT
NHS fights '500m budget deficit'
Hospital ward
Beds have been cut by some strategic health authorities
Hospital wards and operating theatres are being cut and redundancies made as the NHS battles with a 500m deficit, a survey says.

Strategic health authority (SHA) finance directors also said the NHS would still be 225m in debt by the end of the financial year despite the cuts.

Half the 27 SHAs quizzed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) said they would be in debt by the end of March.

Many blamed new doctor contracts, waiting list targets and A&E treatment.

The average deficit stands at 18m, the HSJ reported.

The largest overspend was reported in south-west London at 69.2m, with West Yorkshire following on 40m.

The magazine also detailed what cuts were being made.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts is closing five wards and four operating theatres to save money.

And Southampton University Hospital has already shut two-nurse led units, cut 120 beds and made 100 redundancies to save up to 15m.

Nigel Edwards, policy director of the NHS Confederation, told the HSJ mid-year financial pressure were common.

But he warned: "There are signs this year that a combination of pressures is making this balancing act harder to achieve."

Only one SHA - south-east London - was unable to provide figures.

A Department of Health spokesman played down the deficit.

"We expect by year-end that the majority of NHS organisations and the NHS as a whole will achieve financial balance in 2004-05."

But Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Taxpayers are not getting value for money in the NHS as hospitals spiral into debt.

"We must cut bureaucracy and waste."

Hospital service cuts scrutinised
23 Sep 04 |  Scotland

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