The figures for England, which forecasted the surplus for the financial year ending in March 2009, were published by the Department of Health last week.
In the previous financial year, 2007–2008, the NHS in England recorded a surplus of £1.658bn, following a deficit of £547m in 2006–2007.
The new figures are based on the first quarter of this year, from April to June, and mean that around 2% of the total budget for the NHS may not be spent. The government has promised to invest the money back into the service.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The surplus will stay within the NHS to improve patient care and is in line with the expected financial position.’
David Flory, Department of Health director-general of NHS finance, performance and operations, added: ‘This is an excellent start to the year.’
However, the predicted figure received a lukewarm reception from unions, which are asking for the three-year pay deal
for non-medical NHS staff to be improved (NT News, 5 August, p2).
Karen Jennings, Unison’s head of health, said: ‘Staff who have worked hard and delivered savings need to be properly rewarded.
The NHS has the money and there are no excuses for not giving nurses and other health workers a fair deal on pay.’
And Tom Sandford, director of RCN England, said: ‘Nurses are already playing a huge role in improving public health, reducing health inequalities and boosting the management of long-term illness.
‘Nurses and other healthcare staff will only be able to deliver these programmes if every available penny is invested
in frontline patient services and staff.’
Bindy Sumner, staff nurse at North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said she would like to see the money spent on increased staffing levels.
‘We don’t seem to have enough – not just nursing staff but also receptionists, ward clerks and porters,’ she said.
‘It could also be used to get car parking back under our control so we don’t have to pay for the privilege of going to work.’
Mike Travis, RCN steward at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, added: ‘The government should publish a plan about what they are going to do with it.’