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NHS finances in ‘perilous state’, says damning Public Accounts Committee report

NHS finances are in a “perilous state” and desperately need a long-term solution, a damning report by in influential group of MPs has found.The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England of being “too focused on propping up the system” and neglecting to plan ahead.

“The National Health Service continues to scrape by on emergency handouts and funds that were intended for essential investment,” PAC chair Meg Hillier said.“We have said it before and we will say it again: rescue packages and budget transfers are no substitute for a coherent, properly funded strategy that enables NHS trusts to plan, focus on patient care and lay the groundwork for long-term financial sustainability.”

The committee cited last winter’s NHS crisis as evidence of the Government’s short-term approach, since despite early warnings of a looming healthcare emergency, Chancellor Philip Hammond waited until November to announce additional funding.“The Government’s last-minute response to what were entirely predictable winter pressures is just the latest vivid demonstration of why fresh thinking is so desperately needed,” Ms Hillier said.

The committee called for the DHSC to produce detailed plans on the future of the NHS by July, saying it was “disappointed” its previous warnings to the Government about its short-term approach had gone ignored.Securing a funding settlement from the Treasury that properly reflected current and anticipated demand for the NHS was a key part of such a plan, it said.

NHS trusts forecast a deficit of over £900m in 2017/18, meaning the NHS “has a long way to go before it is financially sustainable”, the committee found.The PAC’s warning came amid growing calls from MPs to increase funding for healthcare, with some suggesting a ring-fenced “NHS tax”.

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