Published: 27/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5848 Page 5

Cash-strapped strategic health authorities are likely to demand more bail-outs from the NHS Bank than the£100m available this year.

Five SHAs are expected to make requests for grants before the end of the March deadline for 2003-04.

HSJ understands they could total more than£140m. The money is needed to deal with historic underfunding, rising drug and agency staff costs, as well as the investment needed to hit national targets.

The three authorities given grants by the NHS Bank last year are applying again. Surrey and Sussex, Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, and Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, are expected to ask for around£20m,£50m and£25m respectively.

And two more SHAs are understood to be on the verge of submitting applications. In January, Greater Manchester predicted a deficit of£26m and will make a decision on whether to apply before the end of this week. And West Yorkshire is understood, according to sources, to be looking to make an application in the region of£20m, though the SHA would not confirm this figure.

Alan Warren, finance director of Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire SHA, said the application to the NHS Bank was part of a two-year recovery plan.

He said that if the bid failed, the SHA would have to look at shortterm borrowing from local SHAs and other sources, which would mean 'we will end up in exactly the same situation next year'.

'Unless we get the support of the NHS Bank, we are going to have borrowing over a long period.'

Historical under-funding had been the reason for the SHA's problems, he said. 'We can demonstrate we can deliver on the targets from 2003 to 2006.'

The news comes amid Liberal