Responding to the news that NHS and Foundation Trusts posted a far bigger deficit than expected in the first quarter of this financial year, Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards said:
“We know that NHS Trusts have been struggling financially for some time. But today’s revelation that 80% of acute Foundation Trusts are now in deficit - and many have failed to meet the most visible waiting times targets - is very worrying indeed. The sector as a whole is in now deficit for the first time, yet Foundation Trusts are generally the higher-performing hospital trusts that we’d expect to meet their financial and access targets, even during a period of austerity.
Back in July, we warned that the NHS could experience a funding crisis before the General Election.
Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive, Nuffield Trust
"Back in July, we warned that the NHS could experience a funding crisis before the general election. We concluded that Trusts’ increased reliance on temporary and agency staff, growing hospital admissions, and tight funding was combining to make the NHS poorly placed to deal with continued austerity, with efficiency savings harder and harder to come by.
“This seems borne out in today’s figures from Monitor, which show Foundation Trusts making smaller efficiency savings than planned and a worrying and unsustainable reliance on agency staff.
“Both FT and NHS Trusts are findings themselves in between a rock and a hard place: a desire to increase staffing numbers in response to the Francis Inquiry at the same time as an unprecedented squeeze on NHS finances.
“While there is scope for greater efficiencies to be wrung from the system, this will not be enough. There are a lot of good ideas about how to change the way that care is provided and how services are run that could help meet the challenge. But these take time to deliver and need investment. At present there is little funding for major change unless trusts are already in financial distress, by which point it is often too late.”