• NHS England bosses look for extra savings in light of the predicted provider deficit
  • CCG sector forecasts year-end deficit of £51.3m
  • NHS England commissioning was overspent in first eight months of the 2015-16

NHS England has revealed it is actively looking for new savings beyond its planned surplus in order to assist the Department of Health’s year-end financial position.

Finance director Paul Baumann’s report to the NHS England board, published today, reveals an overspend in the budget it is responsible for, for the first eight months of 2015-16. This includes all NHS commissioning and its own running costs. However it is still forecasting a year-end surplus.

Mr Baumann’s report has been published ahead of NHS England’s 28 January board meeting. In it, he underlines that NHS England is not legally responsible for NHS funded providers remaining in balance, or for ensuring the DH stays within budget.

“Nevertheless,” Mr Baumann writes, “the [NHS England] executive team continues to monitor the financial position closely with a view to realising all available opportunities to improve on the contribution of the commissioning sector to overall financial balance across the DH group in the light of the significant aggregate deficit projected by providers.

“We are actively seeking to increase our underspend this year to assist the overall Department of Health position.”

It comes amid severe pressure on NHS finances. Last week HSJ revealed that all fines against NHS providers for breaching performance targets for the rest of the year will be used to prop up the health service’s financial position and help the DH avoid blowing its budget. Halfway through 2015-16 providers were forecasting a year-end deficit of £2.2bn, despite it being understood that the NHS’s funding settlement for the coming years being dependent on provider side deficits not exceeding £1.8bn this year.

Mr Baumann’s report says the clinical commissioning group sector is forecasting an overall deficit. At month eight, 45 CCGs were reporting year to date overspends. In total 24 CCGs are forecasting a year-end position worse than their annual plan, of which 8 are forecasting unplanned deficits. The total deficit among CCGs is currently £71m but is currently forecast to fall to £51.3m by the end of the year – 0.1 per cent of the total CCG budget.

NHS England’s own commissioning was overspent by £26m in the first eight months of the year, a variance of 0.1 per cent. The deficit was driven by overspends in its direct commissioning, including specialised services and the cancer drugs fund.