NHS overspends by nearly £1bn in three months

New figures have revealed the NHS has run up £930m deficit in just three months…

NHS trusts in England are in significant financial trouble after collectively racking up debts approaching £1bn. Regulators said the figures, which relate to the first three months of the financial year, showed the amount of pressure facing the health sector.

Undoubtedly, this news is troublesome. According to the data, NHS trusts overspent by just £820m last year—less than the deficit mounted in a three month period. The health service was able to balance their figures due to investment from the government and by using their capital budget, which had been set aside for buildings.

Regulators Monitor and the Trust Development Authority expect the total deficit for the 239 NHS trusts across England will push £2bn by the end of the year. Comparative, this time last year NHS trusts were only £451m in debt.

Chief Executive of Monitor David Bennett said: “Today figures reiterate the sector is under massive pressure and must change to counter it.

“The NHS simply can no longer afford operationally and financially to operate in the way it has been and must act now to deliver the substantial efficiency gains required.”

This level of deficit is concerning and will undoubtedly make it difficult for the Department of Health to balance its books at the end of the year. It could also raise questions about efficiencies, given the health service is one area that has been protected from cuts, while other Whitehall departments have faced significant austerity measures.

However, the picture emerging is clear: hospitals are under astounding pressures to deliver care services and the money available is simply not stretching far enough. According to the latest figures there are 3.3 million people waiting for non-emergency operations. This is the highest number since 2008.

Additionally, for the past 11 months, the health service has failed to meet the four hour A&E wait time.

Richard Murray, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund said the deficit revealed a “sharp deterioration in financial performance among all types of providers”.

He added: “Overspending on this scale cannot be attributed to mismanagement or waste among individual trusts. It reflects the impossible task of delivering high quality care for patients with inadequate funding.”

Last year, hospitals faced significant problems during the winter period, with many declaring states of emergency as demand grew. As the winter months approach it is difficult to see how this situation will not be exacerbated further, given the massive debt already is place.

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