Why does NHS Providers want the government to extend its commitment to the sustainability and transformation fund?
An NHS Providers’ report says the sustainability and transformation fund and control totals have not solved the ‘unsustainability’ of the sector.
It states the £1.8bn STF has ‘masked the underlying financial problems providers face’ and become ‘a key part of provider sector finances’.
The report acknowledges the STF’s role in cutting the provider sector’s financial deficits — from £2.45bn in 2015/16 to £791m in 2016/17 — and stabilising its position.
Recovering provider deficits: has it worked and at what cost? calls on the government to confirm the fund will continue to be paid beyond 2018/19, when the current commitment to pay it runs out. It says continued progress is at risk if the commitment is not made.
Trusts surveyed for the report said:
- the level of savings required of trusts that sign up to control totals is unsustainable
- control totals risk eroding provider autonomy
- requirements to meet control totals to secure STF support could discourage full frankness in reporting underlying financial challenges
- the regime, including the allocation of bonus and incentive payments at year end, risks polarising the sector, widening the financial gap between trusts, and exacerbating the financial problems of challenged trusts
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said: ‘The STF and control totals are also hiding the underlying financial problems the sector faces. As the Nuffield Trust has recently shown, the real underlying provider sector deficit is closer to £3.7bn… We shouldn’t pretend that providers can keep on realising levels of recurrent savings that no other western health economy has ever consistently realised.’