HS prompt payment survey finds wildly varying performance among trusts
Research carried out by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) discovered some NHS trusts are paying more than 90% of their bills within 10 days.
However, others are processing absolutely none in the timeframe – and some are barely managing to pay one in five invoices within 30 days.
The FPB used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the figures, more than a year after all public bodies were urged to pay bills within 10 days to help small firms through the recession.
The FPB found at least five NHS trusts had paid fewer than 1% of their bills in 10 days over the past year. Additionally, at least 35 trusts processed fewer than 10% within 10 days.
Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Lancashire emerged as the best-performing trust in England for 10-day payment, paying 94% of invoices within 10 days. Three trusts in London and the South East were joint worst on this count, all reporting 0% figures.
The Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the West Midlands was the best for 30-day payment, processing 99.9% of bills within the month. The Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was the worst, with a figure of 18.7% for 10-day payment.
Commenting on the findings, FPB spokesman Phil McCabe said: “These figures show an astonishing lack of consistency and uniformity when it comes to prompt payment in the NHS.
“Some trusts are obviously well aware how important getting paid quickly is to their suppliers. As a result, these trusts are commendably processing the majority of their invoices within 10 days and many have voluntarily signed up to prompt payment schemes.
“But others seem worryingly oblivious to the Government’s guidance on this issue and don’t appear to be making any attempt to increase prompt payment at all.
“This ‘postcode lottery’ reflects what we found when we carried out similar research on payment among local authorities. Many public bodies don’t appear to be singing from the same hymn sheet and small businesses are suffering as a result.”
Mr McCabe added: “We appreciate that the NHS has a hugely important job to do.
“As a result, we carefully worded our FoI requests to minimise the work involved in responding to them.
“We also appreciate that, to organisations which save countless lives every day, the speed with which they pay invoices from small businesses may not be their first priority.
“But the better-performing trusts show that prompt payment is entirely possible and shouldn’t cost anything extra to implement.”
When compared with local authorities, NHS trusts perform much more poorly on prompt payment. Recent research found 44% of invoices to English councils were being paid within 10 days, but only 31% of bills were paid as quickly by NHS organisations.
Similarly, the average NHS bill in England took 26 days to be paid, compared to 18 days for local authority invoices.