NHS trusts told financial plans unaffordable
Hospitals and health trusts in England have been told by regulators to look again at their financial plans as current ones are “simply unaffordable”.
David Bennett, chief executive of Monitor, said the NHS was facing an almost unprecedented financial challenge this year.
“We are already reviewing and challenging the plans of the 46 foundation trusts with the biggest deficits,” he wrote in a letter to trusts.
NHS trusts are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they have the number crunchers – like Monitor – demanding they keep a tight control on the finances and on the other they are being asked to ensure standards don’t slip.
This is only likely to get worse. While the NHS has been promised an extra £8bn a year by the end of this Parliament, it is being asked to make £22 billion in efficiency savings to plug the predicted shortfall of £30bn by 2020. That is a monumental task.
Within the health service there is a desire for the £8 billion to be front loaded in November’s government spending review – that is to say they want all or most of it from next year rather than seeing it gradually dripped fed in over the years.
That, so the argument goes, would allow them to get a grip of the deficits and make the changes needed to (hopefully) improve efficiency. The next year or two is crucial for the NHS.
“However, it is clear that this process will not close the funding gap and so we need all providers – even those planning for a surplus this year – to look again at their plans to see what more can be done.”
He urged trusts to leave non-essential vacancies unfilled, and to follow guidelines on safe staffing in a way which was “proportionate and appropriate”.
Rosters should be rigorously managed to deploy staff efficiently across all required shifts, including evenings and weekends, he said.
In May, NHS trusts in England reported a total deficit of £822 million in 2014-15, compared with £115 million the previous year.
A big rise in spending on agency nurses contributed to the deficits.
At the time, Monitor said figures for this financial year were likely to be even worse.