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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
NHS fears despite books balancing
Many trusts are still facing deficits
Ministers have confirmed the NHS has balanced its books - although many hospitals and other parts of the service are still struggling with debt.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt staked her job on wiping out the debt from previous years during 2006-07, and the figures show a surplus of 510m.

But more than one in five NHS bodies in England are still in the red.

The book balancing needed training and public health budget cuts. Extra cash due to the service was also held back.

Hillingdon PCT (London) - 52.1m (21% of turnover)
Hinchingbrooke (Cambs) - 13.3m (18%)
Royal Cornwall NHS Trust - 36.5m (17%)
Kingston PCT (London) - 21.1m (12%)
Weston Area NHS Trust (North Somerset) - 6.7m (10%)

The latest unaudited figures show that the combined debt of the 22% of NHS organisations who failed to break even in 2006-07 was 911m.

In the previous financial year the NHS ran up an overall deficit of more than 500m, and the gross deficit - the total of all those organisations which ran up debts - was 1.3bn.

However, the NHS, which had a budget of over 70bn for 2006-7, has only managed to balance the books by taking money from elsewhere.

First of all, 1.8bn of the extra money due to the NHS in 2006-7 - about a third of the total increase - was held back.

And regional managers working for strategic health bosses have also made cuts to central budgets, such as training, to build up a 450m contingency fund.

'Excessive' cuts

That is on top of the thousands of job losses that have been forced on NHS trusts - 17,000 in the past 12 months, according to the NHS Information Centre.

We now have a mind-boggling state of affairs in which individual organisations are in deficit, while the NHS as a whole has amassed a surplus
Peter Carter
Royal College of Nursing

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Cutting education and training and plundering public health budgets is not the way to manage the future of our NHS."

And Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb added: "Tony Blair's true legacy on the NHS is one of boom and bust - two steps forward, one step back."

NHS workers were also critical of the handling of the deficits.

Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the figures exposed the "tragedy and farce of NHS finances".

"We now have a mind-boggling state of affairs in which individual organisations are in deficit, while the NHS as a whole has amassed a surplus."

And Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants' committee, said the cuts had been "excessive".

But Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said despite the "difficult year", the most recent surveys showed patients were more satisfied with the NHS.

"If we had not taken action the NHS deficit would have been double [what it was]."

And NHS chief executive David Nicholson said: "We have been absolutely determined to get this right.

"We have not finished the journey, but we are well on the way to making it happen."

How one hospital has managed to balance its books

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