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NHS (England) Summarised Accounts 1999-2000

In a report to Parliament today, head of the National Audit Office Sir John Bourn gave the results of his annual examination of the 19 summarised accounts which cover the financial activities of the NHS in England.

Sir John’s opinion on each of the 19 summarised accounts was unqualified. The report drew attention, however, to several issues, as well as to progress made in accounting developments and internal control during 1999-2000. The key findings are set out below.

The overall financial performance of health authorities and NHS Trusts in 1999-2000:

  • 59 of the 99 health authorities reported a deficit for the 1999-2000 year, an increase from 48 out of 100 in 1998-99. The health authorities in aggregate reported a deficit of £52 million (compared with a restated deficit of £25 million in 1998-99) but Sir John also noted that by the end of the second quarter of 2000-2001 the forecast in-year position was a surplus of £45 million.
  • 150 of the 377 Trusts reported a deficit for the 1999-2000 year, compared with 98 of 402 in 1998-99. In aggregate NHS Trusts reported a net deficit for the year of £77 million (compared with a deficit of £36 million in 1998-99). Sir John noted however that by the end of the second quarter of 2000-2001 the forecast in-year deficit for NHS Trusts had reduced to £8 million.
  • Sir John noted that the 1999-2000 financial performance reported by NHS Trusts reflected the completion of the first three year rolling period over which they all met the statutory break-even financial target “taking one financial year with another”, although 41 Trusts were granted an extension from the three year to a five year target. All health authorities achieved their statutory duty for net payments not to exceed their cash limits.

Progress in countering fraud in the NHS:

  • Sir John welcomed the range of initiatives being pursued by the Directorate of Counter Fraud Services to tackle fraud in the NHS, including the appointment of trained specialists in each organisation and establishing a hotline for reporting fraud.
  • At the end of March 2001 NHS organisations were investigating 484 cases of suspected frauds with a total estimated value of some £18 million (compared with 239 cases with an estimated value of £14 million at the end of March 2000).
  • Sir John noted that work was ongoing to measure accurately the level of fraud and “incorrectness” across all main services in the NHS, and welcomed progress in achieving 22 successful prosecutions and 34 successful disciplinary cases during 1999-2000.

Clinical negligence:

  • Sir John noted that the reported liability for clinical negligence continued to increase within the NHS, with the net present value of known and anticipated claims at the end of March 2000 of £3.9 billion, an increase of £0.7 billion from the previous year. This included an estimate for the first time of £1.3 billion for incidents incurred but not reported, and Sir John welcomed this improvement in measurement and disclosure of these significant costs.
  • Sir John’s separate report on the management of clinical negligence claims by the NHS in May 2001 covered this subject in more detail. (HC 403, 2000-2001)

Developments in accounting and internal control:

  • Sir John welcomed the progress achieved by the NHS in implementing three new financial reporting standards during the year. It has helped to bring NHS accounts into line with generally accepted accounting practice.
  • Sir John noted that the appointed auditors of the underlying accounts were required to express an opinion on the regularity of the activities of Health Authorities and Special Health Authorities for the first time in 1999-2000; and in all but three cases they gave unqualified regularity opinions.

Notes for Editors

Individual health organisations are required to prepare annual accounts under Section 98 of the National Health Service Act 1977 as extended. The accounts are audited by auditors appointed by the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales. The Secretary of State for Health is required to prepare nineteen Summarised Accounts from individual accounts which are then subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The summarised accounts for 1999-2000 covered: the 99 health authorities which spent around £39 billion in purchasing health care and related services from NHS Trusts and other contractors; the 377 NHS Trusts which spent some £29 billion in delivering health care; the 460 charitable funds held on trust; and the 16 special health authorities.

Clinical negligence is a breach of a duty of care, which is admitted as such by the employer or is determined as such by the legal process, by members of the health care professions acting in their professional capacity on relevant work.

Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office employing some 750 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 36/01