Published:25/04/2002, Volume II2, No. 5802, Page 6 7

The NHS 'bank' touted in the NHS delivery plan is an idea that emerged only in 'the last week or so' before the Budget and is partly driven by a short-term need to address this year's problematic service and financial frameworks round, HSJ has learned.

The delivery plan describes the bank as a means to replace 'the current informal system of brokerage' between trusts. It would also give NHS organisations access to extra capital for longterm investment. The bank will be 'mutually controlled by the NHS and run by specialists in finance from the NHS and elsewhere'.

A senior HSJ source said the idea had arisen from discussions within the Department of Health and strategic health authorities.

He said: 'It emerged in the last week or so out of discussions on finding a better way to manage brokerage arrangements. There was a feeling in the past that It is been a bit ad hoc and There is a need for a more rule-based system. It was also felt there was a need for those arrangements to be managed, not done in four different ways by four different [regional] health and social care directors.'

But he added that there was also a requirement to manage some of the pressures in this year's SAFF round (news, 7 March). Most trusts and other relevant NHS organisations are, he said, 'OK', but there are some 'hot spots' where increased funding has not yet caught up with demand.

The term 'bank' was 'potentially misleading', he said. 'It is more like a credit union. It is a form of selfhelp within the NHS.'

King's Fund health systems fellow Anthony Harrison, who had previously raised the idea of an NHS bank as an alternative to the private finance initiative, said the key questions about the proposed bank's long-term role in supporting capital investment were 'the basis on which access to finance is made available' and whether financial expertise would be linked with investment planning expertise.