The must read stories and talking points in health

Withdrawing a helping hand

A large underspend by NHS England tipped the financial scales back into an area of acceptability in 2015-16, but this helping hand is unlikely to be available this year.

The national body is forecasting that its overall commissioning budget will be overspent by £83m in 2016-17, which would be the first overspend since it was formed in 2012.

NHS England’s underspend of £599m last year helped the Department of Health avoid a humiliating parliamentary process over its accounts, so this year’s forecast places even more importance on reducing the provider deficit.

There is often significant fluctuation in the underspend/overspend figure, and NHS England says it’s pulling out all the stops to achieve “financial balance”.

But it seems unlikely that any significant underspend can be delivered, as last year’s bumper figure was largely down to one-off measures, which will not be available this year.

So the best we might hope for is that NHS England’s year-end number isn’t prefixed with a minus sign.

No summer break for Peterborough

Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust estimates it needs £650m of central financial support over the next 26 years to finance its £1.8bn private finance initiative deal.

Chief executive Stephen Graves has the unenviable task of popping down to see Jim Mackey at NHS Improvement Towers and ask him to sub the trust £25m a year to address the PFI costs.

The £25m sum is based on the calculations of a contingency planning team sent in by NHS Improvement (née Monitor). The trust has already brokered a deal to get £10m a year, so the live negotiations are over an additional £15m.

As well as trying to get the central bodies to give the trust an almighty bailout, Peterborough’s management also need to sell the merits of a merger with nearby Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust to its staff and patients.

A decision about the proposed merger will be taken by both trust boards in September.

At least August won’t be dull.