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DH to hand over billions of pounds underspend to Treasury

Exclusive Ministers plan to hand back a £2.2bn Department of Health underspend to the Treasury this year, almost double the amount it returned to help plug the UK’s financial deficit last year.

Department of Health accounts for 2012/13 reveal that the underspend will be returned to the Treasury’s coffers in the light of an ‘unprecedented’ fiscal challenge, and following an underspend of over £1.4bn similarly handed back last year.

But the GPC said it was ‘amazed’ that healthcare funding was being redistributed in this way while doctors are struggling to meet patients’ needs.

The accounts reveal an underspend against the revenue department expenditure budget of £1.5bn and an underspend against the capital department expenditure budget of just over £700m, resulting in a total underspend of £2.2bn, or 2% of the budget overall.

The total underspend was higher than the 1.5% that the DH has previously told the House of Commons Health Committee was a ‘prudent’ level of underspend, and comes as the committee advised the Government to reverse its ‘inflexible’ policies with regards to carrying over surplus funds in March this year.

The move is a repeat of last year, when the Government attracted controversy by returning a £1.4bn DH underspend to its main coffers.

The document said: ‘Like other Government departments, DH’s underspend will be returned to HMT and this will help in wider fiscal deficit reduction during this unprecedented period of fiscal challenge.’

However, the DH explained that although the underspend is handed back to the Treasury now, the DH is committed to ensuring that any underspend of the ring-fenced NHS budget is reinvested in the service over the coming years.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘Any NHS underspend will still be available for NHS organisations to ensure high quality, sustainable health services are delivered to patients now and in the future.’

But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the move undermined the Government’s promise to increase NHS funding.

He said: ‘It is amazing that DH is prepared to repeatedly take this funding away from patient care when not only general practice but the whole of the NHS is under massive workload pressure and struggling to meet patients’ need.

‘They can no longer say they have increased NHS funding when they take billions of pounds out of the budget in this regular way.

This article was changed at 18.33pm on 22 August to reflect further clarification from the Department of Health

Readers' comments (11)

  • Vinci Ho

    (1) A lie cannot be disguised as the truth and the truth cannot be condemned to a lie
    (2) For 'those' who were 'sacrificed' during this process of underspending perhaps would never even get an apology
    (3) As I said before , GPC/BMA should know by now how to 'treat' this government .......

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  • Is this before or after they have had to put half a billion back into AE services to prop it up for a few months.

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  • I am getting sick of it ! !

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  • Can we be told how they intend to use this money which so many people have worked harder to amass? Some chance!

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  • first say thereis no money for the health service,then put the squeeze on,then pocket the money.great.

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  • I bet whoever was in charge of the budget got a big BONUS payout for doing this .Just imagine what you could do with this money,you could re instate all the 5000 nurses that you got rid of

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  • but no matter what the people say the goverment have there heads up there a****

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  • Does this mean we can expect David Cameron to announce an increase in foreign aid to support gay marraiges?

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  • I though Hunt said the front line services such as NHS wasn't getting cut.

    Oh hold on it's not a cut - NHS voluntarily handed back their "underspend"

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  • Well, such is life !!. It will be easier to swallow if ALL government depts make a similar financial return .
    I doubt that this will be the case. Most if not all will be asking for more without any return as they will say they need it.
    Well healtcare needs it. This must be the golden oppurtunity to go to the public and let them know tha actual situation and why their health service is really in the state it is !!

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  • Vinci Ho

    Well done!
    Nicholson's Challenge .......

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