NHS England is raiding a national fund earmarked for improvements in cancer, maternity care and other priority services by up to £1bn this year, to pay for deficits elsewhere, and will cut it by a similar amount in 2023-24, HSJ has learned.
The “service development fund” is allocated at the beginning of the year for priority service areas also including primary care, community health, mental health, learning disabilities and health inequalities.
Several NHSE directors said it was being tightly squeezed this year, amid major cost pressures from inflation, a pay deal unfunded by government, and higher than expected covid-related costs.
One well-placed source said the fund this year was required to underspend by about £1bn against what had been planned, which will help balance overspends elsewhere in the NHS.
The cuts are likely to be linked to ministers’ view that the NHS should focus on “core” priorities and cut other activities, including reducing NHSE national programme work which is typically linked to SDF budgets. Patricia Hewitt is looking into giving integrated care systems more “autonomy” from NHSE to set their own priorities.
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Source: HSJ, 8 December 2022
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