Today’s essential stories from the NHS

Mackey’s mission impossible

NHS trusts are predicting a deficit close to £500m this financial year, NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey revealed at Confed 2017.

National regulators previously said the trust sector would need to break even in 2017-18, but the NHSI boss said trusts’ financial plans aggregated to a deficit of £496m.

This is similar to the figure envisaged by NHS Providers earlier in the year.

Mr Mackey also revealed the provider sector ended last financial year with the deficit of £791m, which was within the £800m “risk reserve” held back from commissioning budgets.

HSJ’s research last month had suggested the provider sector’s combined deficit would be £770m. We said the final reported figure was likely to be lower – between £750m and £700m – due to further one-off adjustments that may not have been finalised before trusts reported their numbers to regulators.

Mr Mackey said the official figures represent a “fantastic performance under incredible pressure”, and the NHS “overall” – including the commissioning and provider sectors – had achieved “the impossible” in delivering a breakeven position in 2016-17.

The bad news was “we have to do it again”.

Pay day lift?

Some high profile figures have hinted the years of pay restraint in the NHS should perhaps come to an end soon.

NHS pay was frozen in 2012 and 2013, and since 2014 rises have been limited to 1 per cent.

Opening up Confed 2017, NHS Confederation chair Stephen Dorrell said there needs to be action on workforce priorities including equality, diversity and pay.

The former health secretary said: “We need to ensure that our staff are fairly rewarded for the commitment they make.

“We all know that financial resources are stretched. But we cannot expect to benefit from the continued commitment of staff if they feel public sector pay policy offers them no reasonable prospect of meeting their private needs and aspirations.”

His comments echoed those of Professor Sir Mike Richards, who told HSJ NHS staff “need to be properly rewarded”.

The chief inspector of hospitals said: “The NHS needs more money and part of that is going to be needed for staff pay, but despite the pay restraint that we have seen over the past few years, improvements have been seen [within trusts].”

The Conservative Party appears to be signalling an end to austerity policies, which could mean additional funding for the NHS and possibly an end to public sector pay restraint.