NHS clocking up deficit of £500 million

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NHS bosses warned to “get a grip”

Official figures have shown that the NHS in England has worked up a deficit of nearly £500 million within the first few months of the new financial year.

The blame for increasing costs was pinned on the rising demand for services, with regulators explaining that hospitals in particular were struggling to keep up as time targets also slip.

Numbers from Monitor show that a deficit of £167 million has been run up in the first quarter of 2014/15, which is more than the predicted £80 million. A total of 86 out of 147 trusts were in the red. This time last year they posted a £27 million surplus. The data for the non-foundation trusts, which covers the first four months, showed there had been a £300 million deficit, compared with a £224 million forecast, with 33 of the 98 trusts in deficit. The statistics include mental health and ambulance services.

Losing money

Two thirds of hospital trusts were found to have gained deficits, which has reflected into time targets. The 18 week target time for routine surgery has been missed in both June and July, with the four hour A&E waiting target time also slipping despite being met in the first quarter. The two month target time for cancer patients to receive their first treatment after an urgent referral was also missed.

Monitor chief executive Dr David Bennett, told BBC News “Trusts are striving to overcome the challenges they face while still meeting patients’ expectations for quality care.”

A Department of Health spokesman said “We understand some trusts are facing challenges because of increasing demand but they must have a tight financial grip and ensure they live within their means. Delivering high-quality services and balancing the books must go hand in hand and we expect trusts to deliver this during the course of the financial year.”