NHS providers heading towards unprecedented deficit

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Commenting on today’s financial reports from NHS regulators, Richard Murray, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund said:

‘These figures confirm that NHS providers are heading towards an unprecedented end-of-year deficit.

‘The reported overspend of £930 million at the end of the first quarter is more than the deficit for the whole of last year. This reflects a very sharp deterioration in financial performance among all types of providers, with 96 per cent of acute trusts and more than half of mental health trusts now reporting overspends.

‘On this basis, warnings of a deficit of at least £2 billion by the end of the year are well-founded. The government and NHS bodies are already taking urgent measures to reduce spending and find savings from other budgets, but it is inconceivable that an overspend of this magnitude can be covered by the end of the year.

‘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.

‘Today’s figures follow data released yesterday showing that A&E departments missed the four-hour waiting time target during August and that waiting times for hospital treatment are close to breaching the government’s preferred target measure.

‘With winter approaching, the health service is facing widespread deficits, rising waiting times and deteriorating staff morale. The government must now acknowledge that the NHS cannot continue to maintain standards of care and balance the books. Unless emergency funding is announced in the forthcoming Spending Review, a rapid and serious decline in patient care is inevitable.’

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.