Weak financial control and inaccurate estimates over national pay initiatives has contributed to the NHS deficit crisis, an MPs' report has said.
MPs said there was "no one factor" which caused the deficits
Financial transparency must be improved to combat the problem, with the cumulative debt total peaking at £1bn in March, 2006, the study added.
Clinicians should also be more involved in budgetary issues, MPs recommended.
The government said the NHS would be in net financial balance by the end of the year and it defended salary increases.
Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh said there was an "upward trend" in the number of trusts running a deficit but added that there was "no one factor" for the problems.
Mr Leigh said: "And the NHS has also been saddled with a half a billion pound bill as a result of erroneous estimates by the Department of Health of the costs of national pay initiatives, including those for the GPs and consultants."
He also said there was "no excuse" for clinicians to distance themselves from money matters as if "the quality of healthcare delivered by an organisation has nothing to do with whether it has to dig itself out of a deficit".
Mr Leigh said mistakes over the cost of pay initiatives, including those for GPs and consultants, had left the NHS with a £0.5bn bill.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has staked her job on the NHS breaking even this financial year, which is likely to be achieved using reserves built up by Strategic Health Authorities.
Andy Burnham, health minister, added that there was "unprecedented" financial transparency in the NHS and claimed staff were "getting paid more for doing more".
But shadow health minister Andrew Lansley said: "This report exposes a worrying lack of financial expertise in Whitehall."
Meanwhile, Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, called on the government to "come clean".
He said: "Ministers need their advisers to tell them just how damaging the deficits crisis has become and acknowledge the government's responsibility to work with frontline staff to find a long-term solution."