NHS hits initial year-end deadlines
by Steve Brown
07 May 2020
All clinical commissioning groups and NHS providers met the first submission requirements under the revised timetable for the 2019/20 accounts, despite pressures introduced by the coronavirus.
NHS England and NHS Improvement announced a new timetable for the 2019/20 accounts process at the end of March. This extended the submission of draft accounts by a minimum of three days, while full audited accounts were put back by nearly four weeks.
The move recognised that some organisations were under considerable pressure – with finance staff off sick or self-isolating as a result of the Covid-19 virus or redeployed to support the frontline response or other priorities in the finance department. Finance teams in many organisations have also moved to homeworking, requiring the rapid implementation of IT solutions to enable remote access to key systems.
Under the revised timetable, CCGs had to submit draft accounts by 27 April. Providers were also encouraged to submit draft accounts on this date, alongside month 12 provider finance returns (PFRs). However, they were also given an option to just submit the month 12 PFR with agreement of balances data by this date, with draft accounts submitted by 11 May.
All 191 CCGs and 184 providers submitted draft accounts by the April deadline, with 42 providers taking the option for the two-stage submission. Commissioning support units and regional bodies, while not submitting statutory annual accounts, also met the deadline for the required templates and working papers.
NHS England and NHS Improvement director of financial control Adrian Snarr (pictured) said: ‘While it’s early days as we work through the information submitted, we’re immensely grateful to NHS organisations for their hard work in delivering accounts, which remain important. The year end is a very busy time any year, but with considerable additional challenges this year, this is a testament to the commitment of the NHS finance community.’
Audited accounts are due for both providers and commissioners by 25 June. An HFMA Accounting and Standards Committee meeting at the end of April highlighted a number of issues for auditors, in particular around going concern assessments and valuations.
As part of the current temporary financial regime, NHS providers are being paid under block contract arrangements. However, these are only currently in place until the end of July and the lack of clarity about future income makes it difficult for management and auditors to make a judgement about the ability of an organisation to continue as a going concern.
Covid-19 may also have had an impact on valuations. Where this has led valuers to reference material uncertainty in valuation reports, auditors will be looking for this to disclosed.
End-of-year stock takes were also discussed by the committee as a potential complication. These will be more complicated because of the service’s response to Covid-19 and the remote working of staff. And if stocks are deemed to be material, auditors are required to attend the stock take, which will be difficult to deliver in the current climate.
In a further step to ease pressure on the preparation of annual reports, regulations have been amended so that there is no longer a fixed deadline for providers to publish their 2019/20 quality accounts. The national oversight bodies have suggested 15 December as an appropriate revised deadline.