A majority of provider sector finance chiefs believe that their organisations will not be able to sign contracts before the start of the coming financial year, according to a snap survey shared with HSJ.

The 53 finance and commercial leaders surveyed by NHS Providers largely thought neither the financial values of the contracts, nor activity levels could be agreed by the end of March.

NHS England and Monitor revealed last month that their proposed 2015-16 tariff had received objections from providers responsible for three-quarters of all tariff funded services.

Under the Health Act 2012, this means the national bodies must either refer their proposals to the Competition and Markets Authority for review or consult again on revised prices.

The majority of respondents to the survey (81 per cent) said that revision and further consultation on the national tariff proposals for 2015-16 was their preferred option. Only 6 per cent said their preferred option would be signing up to an alternative “voluntary tariff”, as proposed last week by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens. However, when asked if they would sign up to a voluntary tariff, 86 per cent said it would depend on the offer.

Respondents represented 48 organisations, including acute, community, specialist, integrated and mental health trusts.

Mr Stevens said in an exclusive interview with HSJ last week that the pricing authorities will ask trusts to accept a new “voluntary” tariff for 2015-16.

Making a new offer to providers that would be agreed outside formal price setting rules is seen by NHS England as a means to avoid the damage threatened by further delay. No new tariff will be confirmed by 1 April, leaving commissioners either to roll over 2014-15 prices or come to local agreements.

Of the 43 respondents who answered a question on whether they expected the majority of their contracts to be signed by the end of March, only three said yes.

Siva Anandaciva, head of analysis at NHS Providers, said: “Providers of NHS services objected the 2015-16 national tariff proposals because they can no longer guarantee safe and effective care unless they are properly funded for the patients they treat.

“Our survey results show the vast majority [81 per cent] of surveyed providers would prefer to resolve this issue ‘within the NHS’ through revision and consultation of the tariff proposals, reflecting that this is not simply a technical tariff methodology issue but an issue of how much financial and operational risk the provider sector can reasonably be expected to bear.

“If we are to have any hope of a tariff being agreed in time for April 2015 it is crucial that providers are offered genuine engagement to inform a coherent and realistic set of tariff proposals.”