U.K. Health Service Faces Financial `Black Hole,' Lawmakers Say

The U.K.’s state-funded National Health Service faces a widening “black hole” in its finances as the cumulative deficit of the country’s 245 healthcare trusts balloons, a cross-party panel of lawmakers said.

NHS trusts and NHS Foundation trusts racked up a net deficit of 843 million pounds ($1.2 billion) in the 2014-2015 tax year, and their overspend threatens to widen to 2.5 billion pounds in the current year, the Public Accounts Committee said in a report Tuesday. That compares with a 91 million-pound deficit in 2013-2014 and a 592 million pound surplus a year earlier.

“Central government has done too little to support trusts facing financial problems with the result that overall deficits are growing at a truly alarming rate,” Committee Chairwoman Meg Hillier, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, said in a statement. “Without urgent action to put struggling trusts on a firmer financial footing there is further serious risk to services and the public purse.”

The Department of Health should make sure all trusts have “realistic recovery plans” in place by April while curbing “overly ambitious” cost-reduction targets, the committee said. It also said the health service should use its collective-bargaining power to drive down the costs of hiring temporary agency workers.

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