​Budgets are Bust

By Josh Jezard

​Budgets are Bust

• Hospitals and other NHS trusts in England have overspend by up to £141m a year.

• Underfunding and staff shortages are among reasons for deficit, says watchdog.

• Ten trusts recorded a combined deficit of £758m in 2017-18, which was 69% of the £991m loss that trusts collectively posted, the National Audit Office (NAO) said.

Experts warn that due to overspending patient care could suffer. With patients expected to experience poorer care, longer waiting times for treatment and greater rationing.

The figures are showing that the NHS is struggling with budgetary problems that are unsustainable, the NAO concluded in its annual review of the health services finances.

Richard Murray, the chief executive of the King’s Fund, said hospitals were not to blame for overspending, even by sums as large as £141m.

Murray added: “Despite some NHS trusts being in the red by more than £100m, NHS Improvement aims to clear all provider deficits within two years. Complex NHS finances are bedevilled by short-term fixes, fragile workarounds and unrealistic expectations that leave some trusts in significant deficit whilst others are in significant surplus.”

Anita Charlesworth, the director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “Workforce shortages are the greatest threat to delivering high-quality care to all those who need it. But spending on training and education has fallen by 17% in real terms over the last five years.”

Hospitals, ambulance, mental health and community trusts are being covered as figures have been released by the NHS improvement.

Nearly all hospitals are ending the year in red with 65% of 240 trusts being in deficit.

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