NHS foundation trusts deficit rises

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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NHS foundation trusts have reported a deficit of £321 million – five times more than planned, a health regulator has said.

Foundation trusts are seen as a hallmark of excellence in the health service but many of the organisations are clearly struggling with their finances, Monitor’s quarterly report warned.

The report, which details the performance of 147 foundation trusts between October and December last year, found that increased pressure on demand combined with the continued need to make cost savings is putting trusts under “exceptional pressure”.

The use of expensive agency staff is also having a drastic impact on budgets, it said.

The report found that 78 trusts (53%) were in the red, of which 60 were acute trusts.

The £321 million deficit has risen from £254 million in the previous quarter while it was £167 million in the three months prior to that.

Other analysis includes foundation trusts seeing 2.7 million people in their A&E units between October and December, which is 8% more than the same period last year.

Foundation trust hospitals admitted 570,000 of these for further treatment, which is an extra 40,000 patients compared with last year.

They also treated more than 2.3 million non-emergency patients in the quarter, an increase of 7% over the same period last year.

They spent £419 million more on staff than planned because of the high use of contract and agency workers, while they made £810 million worth of cost savings – £210 million less than planned.

The 149 foundation trusts, which make up nearly two-thirds of all NHS trusts, have failed to meet national waiting time targets for A&E, routine and cancer care for three successive quarters, Monitor said.

Foundation trusts are awarded their title when they are considered well run enough to take on more independence from their local health authority.

It means they have a significant amount of managerial and financial freedom compared with other NHS trusts.

Monitor said it took regulatory action against 28 foundation trusts (19% of the sector) because of governance or financial concerns

Its chief executive, Dr David Bennett, said: “Trusts are working harder than ever to overcome the challenges they face while still meeting patients’ expectations for quality care.

“However, the NHS needs to move rapidly towards more joined-up, efficient models of care if it is to deal with this continuing growth in demand for services.”

Paul Briddock, director of policy at the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), said the deficit was “alarming”.

He said: “Foundation trusts are working harder than ever against the sustained operational and financial pressures facing them and we continue to support our members who are carrying out very difficult roles at this time.

“But the Quarter 3 figures speak for themselves. Given the challenges facing the NHS, it cannot continue to work in the same way that it has in the past.

“Major changes to the way it delivers services, particularly around more joined-up models of care across health and social care economies, are needed. And the speed at which these changes are taken forward needs to gather pace quickly.”

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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