Financial black hole is getting deeper - Nuffield Trust responds to latest NHS finance figures

The underlying deficit for trusts has grown to around £5bn, the equivalent to the annual costs of 11 acute hospitals, despite services making a further £3bn in cost savings.

Press release

Published: 13/06/2019

Responding to the Quarter 4 finances report for NHS trusts in England, Nuffield Trust Senior Policy Analyst Sally Gainsbury said:

“Today’s figures show NHS leaders are finally acknowledging that the financial black hole in hospitals and other health services is getting deeper.

“Last year NHS Improvement estimated the underlying deficit at the end of 2017/18 was around £4.3bn. In its report today it admits that figure is likely to have grown to around £5bn – the equivalent to the annual costs of 11 acute hospitals.

“This is despite services making a further £3bn plus in cost savings in the financial year 2018/19.

“While it is true more money is coming into the health service in the year that has just started, this boils down to just £1bn extra for NHS trusts. That leaves them dependent on continued short term one off cost cuts and emergency funds: an impossible basis on which to plan a stable recovery.

“As the report lays bare, the NHS’s financial problems are far from solved. NHS providers need to know where their funding is coming from for more than one year at a time, to properly plan their recoveries, to upgrade dilapidated buildings and out of date equipment and to recruit permanent staff. At present the continued restrictions on funding and uncertainties over how funds will be distributed is serving to exacerbate an already difficult situation.”

Notes to editors

Read the NHS England/Improvement Quarter 4 figures here.