NHS trusts overspent by £770m last year – social care is not the only crisis in town

No party is pledging enough to keep pace with demand


Around 100 of 235 NHS trusts ended 2016/17 in the red, with an overall deficit of £770 million, according to new analysis of trusts’ own figures.

Although the focus of the general election campaign has been the social care crisis, the figures published by the Health Service Journal draw attention to the continuing financial squeeze in the NHS. While the health service deficit has fallen from a record £2.45bn in 2015/16, experts warn that the picture remains worse than it appears.

Dozens more trusts only avoided deficits with one-off measures or technical accounting measures, while trusts also received £1.8bn of bailout funding. Sally Gainsbury of the Nuffield Trust told the Guardian that the true overspend ‘would probably be in the region of £2.5bn’.

The Nuffield Trust warned yesterday that ‘no party has pledged enough funding for the NHS’ in its manifesto. It analysed four possible spending scenarios — based on economic growth, NHS inflation and increasing demand for care, the long-term average of funding growth, and the OBR’s health projections — and found that none of the major parties were pledging enough to meet even the lowest of these four projections.

John Appleby, the Nuffield Trust’s chief economist commented:

“After a week in which the three main parties in England have all claimed they are going to put significant extra funding into the health service, we thought it important to compare their pledges with some independent measures of where spending might be in five years’ time.

“What our new analysis shows is that in fact none of the parties’ promises matches even the lowest projections of what funding might be. Spending as a proportion of GDP looks set to fall slightly whichever party forms the next government, unless additional funds can be found.”

The Conservatives’ manifesto promises would bring total NHS spending to £131.7bn by 2022/3, the Lib Dems would bring it to £132.2bn and Labour’s pledges would lift spending to £135.3bn.

To keep pace with economic growth — the lowest of the Nuffield spending scenarios — the NHS would need total spending of £137bn by the end of the next parliament.

See also: Jeremy Hunt said the Tories were being ‘completely explicit’ about scrapping the social care cap

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