Our round-up of Friday’s must read stories

Christmas to-do list

On Friday, we revealed trusts had been asked to stop most elective work to reduce bed occupancy over the Christmas period.

A leaked NHS Improvement letter said trusts should aim to have 85 per cent of beds occupied for the next month – that’s 10 percentage points lower than where they are now. The idea is that this will allow them to focus on emergency work, which is expected to increase.

The NHS does something like this every year, but this goes further by connecting a halt on elective work to the desired, much lower, bed occupancy rate.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said it underlines how trusts are “caught between a rock and a hard place” – “The rock of coping with ever rising emergency demand and the hard place of meeting the referral to treatment elective surgery target and financial control totals where elective income is key. Trusts chief executives tell us it’s increasingly difficult to deliver both.”

Perhaps NHS Improvement will not penalise trusts that don’t hit required income levels or performance standards on RTT as a result of the temporary stop on elective surgery?

Raiders return

More than £3bn looks set to be raided from already squeezed NHS investment funds by 2020, to prop up the Department of Health’s day to day revenue budgets, according to figures seen by HSJ.

A presentation slide used by national NHS leaders says another £1bn will be transferred from capital budgets in 2017-18, on top of £1.2bn already confirmed for 2016-17.

Further raids of £500m and £250m will be made in 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively, the slide suggests.

The DH has been heavily criticised for repeatedly using capital funds to balance growing revenue deficits in the NHS trust sector in recent years, and the planned transfers would mean capital funds being raided for six years in a row.

The figures were revealed in a slide used by the Healthcare Financial Management Association at its annual conference. HSJ understands it had previously been used by national officials.

A DH spokesman told HSJ that capital to revenue switches beyond 2016-17 “have not been set out yet” and declined to comment further.