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Government 'running scared' on deficit figures

Plans to delay the publication of NHS figures about trust financial deficits until after the general election reveal a Government ‘running scared’ and refusing to face up to the funding crisis in the health service, doctors leaders have said.

Speaking on the Today programme on Friday morning BBC health correspondent Hugh Pym said NHS Improvement wants to publish the quarterly figures – due to be released at the end of May – but the Department of Health has claimed they come under ‘purdah’ rules governing what can be said during an election.

The move has been criticised by the Labour Party and doctors leaders.

Labour Party shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth described the delay as a ‘cover up’ designed to deny the public the true, stark, picture of the health of NHS finances.

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron said that the ‘public deserve to know the scale of the financial crisis facing the NHS’.

And Mark Holland from the Society for Acute Medicine said it was ‘only right and just that important data pertaining to the NHS in England is published’.

BMA council chair Mark Porter said the Government is ‘refusing to face up to the funding crisis that has put the NHS at breaking point’.

Dr Porter added: ‘The Government is clearly running scared. We’ve seen a Conservative ‘smoke and mirrors’ manifesto that disguises the refusal to fund real health needs in the NHS.

‘Doctors, nurses and patients will now not be allowed to see the depth of the current funding crisis before the general election.

‘Delaying the release of the figures won’t magically solve the very real problems our health service is facing. Hospitals are in the red, GPs are unable to keep up with the number of patients coming through the surgery door, patients are suffering and staff are working under impossible conditions.

‘The figures should be published as planned so that NHS staff and patients can demand a long-term, credible plan to help solve the crisis in the NHS.’

NHS Improvement normally publishes the figures in late May – revealing the total deficits for trusts for the three months ending in March. These figures would cover the final quarter of the financial year and show the full year total as a result.

Quarter three figures revealed that trusts faced a combined deficit of £886m.