Arise Sir Plus

NHS on course for large surplus
A clampdown on spending within the NHS has turned a massive deficit into an even bigger surplus in just two years. As much as £1.8bn, about 2% of the budget, will be left unspent this year, the Department of Health says - prompting charges of "boom and bust". The NHS was ordered to balance the books after running up a £547m deficit in the financial year 2005/06. Ministers have said that any surplus there is will be put back into patient care next year. Over the past two years, the NHS has been under extreme financial pressure, with many trusts cutting jobs and making other savings in order to break even.
What a way to run a health service. God knows what damage has been done as NHS managers took the pruning shears to their services in order to 'balance the books'. But why this obsession with eradicating what was in effect a tiny deficit of less than half a percent? As David Stout, the director of the NHS Confederation PCT Network - representing the primary care trusts who spend NHS money - said, "the surplus was not necessarily a cause for concern. In the context of the overall NHS budget this is not a huge surplus." If that applies to a £1.6 billion surplus it must apply even more strongly to a deficit less than one third that figure. Even now the books aren't 'balanced', with some trusts in deficit and others in surplus. How simply totting these pluses and minuses up to try and arrive at zero overall signifies good financial planning is beyond me.

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "It is excellent news that the NHS continues to be in healthy surplus. "This means more flexibility for health services and better care for patients." Quite how this works he didn't explain.
John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund, said that a surplus of that size was not necessarily a healthy sign, as the money could have been spent on services. He said: "If the NHS does end up with a significant underspend at the end of the financial year, that will be a real loss to patients".
Well, you don't need a degree in economics to work that one out, do you?

Meanwhile back in the real world:
Paramedics were forced to treat patients in the back of the vehicles as they waited near the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital...Norfolk's two other general hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston were also on the top level of alert - meaning all contingency measures were exhausted. And a spokesman for Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge said it had also faced similar problems - which is termed "black alert".