Brave decision shows how far we have to go: Nuffield Trust response to NHS Improvement financial figures

For the first time the NHS's underlying deficit has been published by NHS Improvement.

Press release

Published: 11/09/2018

Responding to today’s figures on the performance of NHS trusts from April to June 2018, Nuffield Trust Senior Policy Analyst Sally Gainsbury said:

“Today’s figures summarise another very difficult period for the NHS with more people waiting longer in A&E and finances still deteriorating. For the first time, the brave and honest step has also been taken to publish the underlying deficit.

“As we have calculated and warned for several years [2], the real level of annual overspending is around £4bn, many times the reported headline deficit measure. That means services were lacking the equivalent of 18 days’ worth of funding last year, running instead on bailouts, one off savings, and selling off land.

“Today’s figure doesn’t mean the health service’s performance has deteriorated. In fact the service has been delivering heroic efficiencies to cope with repeated cuts to the income they receive for each patient since 2010, which mean the costs of providing treatment are no longer covered. But the pressure just keeps coming. The sobering staffing figures included in today’s data, showing nursing vacancies back up above 40,000 once again, underline just how tough a situation the health service will face this year.

“The NHS has now been charged with developing a plan for the next ten years, setting out how it will spend the modest increases in funding set to begin next April. But today’s figures are a reminder that we are starting underwater – and the first priority will have to be simply getting back to a firm footing.”

Notes to editors

  1. “Quarterly performance of the NHS provider sector: quarter 1 2018/19” was published today by NHS Improvement and is available on their website.
  2. Last year’s Nuffield Trust report The Bottom Line projected a year-end deficit for last year (2017/18) of somewhat below £4 billion. In figures since given to journalists, we have warned that this had risen to around the figure NHS Improvement have revealed today. The slight remaining difference is accounted for by NHS Improvement also removing special winter funding from their figures.
  3. The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.
  4. For any queries or to arrange an interview with Sally, please contact Mark Dayan at / 0207 462 0538.