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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
'Meddling' to blame for NHS debts
Image of an operation
The government says it has delivered reforms to the NHS
Mounting NHS deficits have been caused by political meddling and damaging policies, hospital consultants say.

The British Medical Association attacked the government's handling of the NHS as ministers revealed a big rise in the size of the deficit.

The deficit for 2005-06 was 512m - more than double the figure for the previous year.

But acting NHS chief executive, Sir Ian Carruthers said the health service was improving significantly in all areas.

He told the BBC: "Waiting times are at their lowest position ever, there is greater access in terms of a bigger number of people receiving cancer treatment, and premature deaths from cancer and heart disease are reduced.

"And services such as stroke, mental health and care of the elderly are improving."

But the BMA said the government was wasting money on involving the private sector and management consultants.

Yes, bad management is a problem in some places, but the biggest cause is the interference from government
Paul Miller, British Medical Association

The unaudited accounts for the NHS in England for the last financial year show that the total deficit was more than 100m down on the mid-year projection of 620m.

Paul Miller, chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, who addressed a conference of doctors on Wednesday, said money was being wasted by a series of initiatives.

He said hospital facilities were being left underused because private treatment centres, which carry out minor surgery, had been given a guaranteed numbers of patients.

Waiting times

And he also pointed the finger of blame at PFI deals, which use private money to build NHS hospitals, claiming firms had made money when facilities had not been built or vastly delayed.

It is the government's reforms that have delivered these improvements for patients
Andy Burnham, Health minister

Meanwhile, he claimed about 1bn was being spent by the NHS on management consultants each year "without any clear benefit".

"Yes, bad management is a problem in some places, but the biggest cause is the interference from government. Something is going badly wrong and it is demoralising for staff," he said.

But Health Minister Andy Burnham said Mr Miller's analysis was "skewed". "It is the government's reforms that have delivered these improvements for patients and I find it staggering that Mr Miller seems unaware of these facts."

He added the NHS's annual report, released on Wednesday, confirmed waiting times are falling and the quality of treatment improving.

And Sir Ian Carruthers warned against what he describes as hysteria over NHS finances and job cuts.

But latest figures from the Royal College of Nursing paints a less rosy figure, estimating that 15,000 job cuts have been announced in recent months. This comes on top of the hospitals which have also reported closing wards and delaying operations.

The causes of the deficits are also set to be explored in a joint National Audit Office and Audit Commission report to be published after the government reveals the deficit figure.

The BMA explain why they are blaming the government

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