Today’s biggest stories and debate in health policy

Bonus round

There’s been plenty of criticism around the mechanics of the £1.8bn sustainability and transformation fund in 2016-17, but for some trusts it’s worked out very nicely.

And it’s not just the big teaching trusts like Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust and University College London Hospitals FT that have benefited.

Many organisations in the long neglected mental health and community sectors have also received large chunks of “bonus” money from the STF (along with ambulance and specialist trusts) – which is effectively cash that was initially earmarked for the acute sector.

This is a very roundabout way of getting more money into non-acute organisations (and this may not even have been the intention), although the recipient trusts will be feeling pretty cheerful at the end result.

The previous criticism still stands, however, as trusts which benefited the most were able to do so because of one-off transactions such as land disposals or some clever accounting. And of course, all the trusts which failed to meet their target – whatever the sector – will have simply fallen deeper into debt.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is certainly not getting too excited. He says there’s a risk of trusts “squabbling for scraps from the table” and that a simpler, ringfenced, transformation fund is desperately needed.

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