Responding to the latest financial reports from the NHS regulators, Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards said:
Today’s figures show that deficit has become the ‘new normal’ for the NHS. With 79 per cent of trusts in the red, the outlook for breaking even by the end of this financial year is bleak.
“Financial problems on this scale cannot be explained by individual pockets of mismanagement - we are looking at a systemic problem across the health service. And as our recent survey of healthcare leaders suggests, it is becoming increasingly impossible to provide quality standards, timely access to care and financial control at the same time. As we enter the winter period, it is highly likely that patients will wait longer for care.
Today’s figures show that deficit has become the ‘new normal’ for the NHS. With 79 per cent of trusts in the red, the outlook for breaking even by the end of this financial year is bleak.Nigel Edwards, Nuffield Trust
“There are solutions to this problem – redefining how care is delivered, reducing reliance on agency staffing, and driving down waste. But these are difficult to achieve and will take much, much longer than the impending deadline for the Department for Health to balance the books in April 2016.
“This problem has been evident for some time, so getting financial results for Quarter 1 after the end of Quarter 2 suggests an overly leisurely approach to an urgent problem. Given the scale of these deficits, there appears to be an extraordinary absence of the sort of urgency one might expect from those in charge of the NHS.”
The Nuffield Trust recently surveyed 100 health and social care leaders about their assessment of the finances of their local area.
The survey found that:
- 67 per cent of leaders were not confident their local area had a credible plan to achieve the savings they required this financial year
- 83 per cent agreed that financial pressures would lead to a managed decline in the NHS, with many predicting lengthening waiting times as a consequence
- Just over half of respondents felt that pressure to comply with government guidelines was resulting in quality being compromised in other areas.
Perspectives from the leaders surveyed include
- “Positive changes are happening but will there be time?” [CCG respondent]
- "We do have a plan and it is very innovative. But it won’t save the money that is required." [Acute Trust respondent]
- “It’s like being a dairy farmer - our costs are simply not covered.” [Acute Trust respondent]
- “All local providers and commissioners locally are in deficit and off plan, whatever they report”. [CCG respondent]