Thursday 9 February 2017, A new ICAEW paper on the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA), focuses on liabilities, including the provision made by the Government for settling clinical negligence claims which reached £29bn by 31st March 2015.
“Nowhere can the impact of the liabilities the Government has built up be seen more acutely than in the NHS. The liability for clinical negligence grew by £3.8bn during 2014/15, reaching a new high of £29bn – with £1.3bn paid out in settlements. The annual change of £3.8bn alone was equivalent to 4% of NHS England’s net expenditure. With the NHS currently experiencing staffing issues, it’s interesting to note that the amount Government paid out in the year 2014/2015 to settle clinical negligence claims is equivalent to the salaries of thousands of additional doctors. If the Government behaved more like a business, it would look at the trade-off between increasing NHS staffing levels in high risk areas and the amount it pays to settle clinical negligence.”
“The total liabilities of £3.6 trillion reported at 31 March 2015 have now reached 191% of GDP and are almost two and half times the narrower measure of public sector net debt reported in the National Accounts of £1.5 trillion. Put into perspective, WGA debt is now equivalent to £130,000 per household - as opposed to £70,000 using statistical accounting. In order to restore trust in Government, and to give taxpayers a clear picture of how much liability the Government has assumed on their behalf, it’s important that more emphasis be placed on the WGA.”
“The Government currently takes 14 months to produce WGA, which hinders transparency and reduces scrutiny. This “cloak and dagger” approach should be abandoned. ICAEW believes Government should aim to publish the WGA accounts ready for the Autumn Budget at the end of each Financial Year in April, as this would help policy makers better understand the consequences of policy decisions and provide up-to-date information about the alarming rate at which the Government’s liabilities are building up.”