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NHS trusts given £1bn bailout funds

Struggling NHS trusts have received more than £1 billion in bailout funds in six years, figures have shown.

The Department of Health gave emergency funds to four NHS foundation trusts and 17 NHS trusts between 2006 and 2012, the National Audit Office (NAO) said.

Cash-strapped trusts needed the money to pay creditors and staff, according to the NAO report into the financial sustainability of the NHS.

The news comes after South London Healthcare NHS Trust became the first in the country to go under the control of a special administrator tasked with putting it on a viable footing. The trust, and its predecessors, have needed a total of £356 million over the last six years, and not paid any back, the NAO said.

Another London trust, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, was given £195 million by the Department of Health to aid its dire finances.

Between 2010 and 2011, struggling trusts had to be bailed out to the tune of £76 million but this figure drastically increased last year to £253 million, the NAO said.

The report also revealed that 34 trusts, including three primary care trusts, 10 NHS trusts and 21 NHS foundation trusts, reported a deficit in 2011 and 2012. It is estimated that NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts are likely to need around £300 million more in bailouts in 2012 and 2013.

But the NAO stated that in 2011/12 there was a surplus of £2.1 billion across the NHS as a whole. Struggling trusts face even more financial turmoil in the next few years. The NHS must make up to £20 billion efficiency savings before 2015.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The NHS is in robust financial health. £1.6 billion of surplus has been carried forward from the last financial year into this year. Where there are a small number of trusts with long-standing financial problems we are tackling them together and are aiming to make them all sustainable by 2014.

"We have already signalled that we are determined to bring greater transparency and openness to the process of financial support. And we need to be certain that those NHS trusts that face historic financial problems are not taking their eye off the most important issue of all - maintaining and improving their frontline patient care."

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