King’s Fund reports ‘alarming deterioration’ in NHS finances

Quarterly report paints a bleak picture, with an £800 million overspend in 2014/15


The King’s Fund says that the NHS is facing its ‘biggest challenge for many years’.

In its quarterly monitoring report, the health charity says that hospitals and other NHS providers in England overspent their budgets by more than £800 million in 2014/15. This is despite nearly £900 million being provided by the Treasury or switched from capital budgets in an attempt to plug the ‘black hole’ in NHS finances

According to the survey of trust staff undertaken for the report, almost 60 per cent of trust finance directors said that they were dependent on additional financial support or had drawn down their reserves in 2014/15.

Fewer than half of trusts feel confident that they will meet the productivity targets for 2015/16.

And things look set to get even worse next year, with two-thirds of hospitals saying they are concerned about staying within their budget over the next year. 40 per cent of finance leads from clinical commissioning groups say they are unsure whether they will be able to balance their books in 2015/16.

The report also finds that there is a mismatch in expectations about the demand for services between providers and commissioners. For example, 80 per cent of trusts expect emergency admissions to rise this year, but 60 per cent of CCGs expect them to fall.

Meanwhile NHS performance continues to deteriorate. Key targets are being missed with increasing regularity; for example in February the proportion of inpatients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment rose to 13 per cent, the highest level since the target was introduced.

Performance against target waiting times for A&E is at its worst level since 2003, with 8.2 per cent of patients – more than 440,950 people – waiting longer than four hours in A&E departments in the final quarter of 2014/15

And the number of delayed transfers of care is now at its highest level since 2008.

Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund, said of the report:

“The health service enters the new financial year facing some of the biggest financial and performance challenges in its recent history. If last year was the most difficult for some time, this year promises to be much worse, with little confidence that the alarming deterioration in NHS finances can be arrested.

“Looking further ahead, while there is still significant scope to improve productivity in the NHS, efficiencies are becoming harder to generate and there is considerable scepticism that the £22 billion in productivity improvements outlined in the NHS five year forward view can be achieved.”

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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