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NHSI demands trust board action on £1.23bn provider deficit

With new figures from NHS Improvement (NHSI) showing a further deterioration in provider finances and the regulator calling for trust boards to take 'firm action', David Morris, NHS SBS Managing Director, asks how much longer some NHS organisations can ignore the value of shared business services.

Image representing NHSI demands trust board action on £1.23bn provider deficit

David Morris Without exception, NHS providers across the country are facing unprecedented demand on their services. It is entirely unsurprising, therefore, that many are increasingly struggling to balance the books. Indeed, the latest quarterly performance report published by NHSI last week, which shows a combined £1.23 billion provider deficit midway through 2018-19, highlights 36 trusts in particular that have worsened their positions to the tune of a collective £152 million.

Despite the declining financial position of our NHS hospitals and other healthcare providers, they continue to do a fantastic job of maintaining the highest standards of care. And this - their primary purpose - should not be forgotten. The aim surely must be to allow them to concentrate on delivering world class patient care without the distraction of spending endless resource away from frontline services.

And it is exactly for this reason that NHS SBS exists. Formed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) over a decade ago, our remit is simple - deliver a high-quality, cost-effective alternative to numerous in-house NHS business services. Everything we do is aimed at providing modern and efficient corporate services, which save time and money and make the lives of those working in the NHS easier.

Earlier this year, we invited chairs from NHS trusts around the country to a series of events to see this for themselves. We showed them firsthand how around 130 providers and arm's length bodies already use at least one of our procurement, finance and employment services. They were interested to hear that, by partnering with us, their organisation too could expect to save upwards of 30% compared to managing a service in-house.

Such significant savings, coupled with service quality improvements and our ongoing investment in futureproofing corporate services, mean the shared service model is now impossible to dismiss for the vast majority of NHS organisations.

When NHSI points to the deteriorating financial positions of a "small proportion of providers" as the main reason for the overall decline and demands "focused and firm action by their boards", we want to make it easy for trusts to evaluate the proven savings and service improvements that exist from partnering with NHS SBS for their corporate services.

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