Additional winter funding stripped back leaving A&E departments short
Analysis by the Health Service Journal has revealed that hospital trusts are already factoring in financial deficits, as four out of ten experience increased costs due to unplanned demand on emergency services.
Trusts usually receive winter pressure funding, which helps them to cope with the rising pressures on A&E departments over the course of the winter months. However, this extra help finishes in March, and trusts are now feeling the pinch as there is no decline in demand for emergency services, so more beds are remaining open.
Approximately 30% of the 99 trusts studied reported higher than expected deficits which have been linked to winter pressure costs. Of the trusts hit, six are based in London while four are in Yorkshire and the West Midlands. Croydon Health Services Trust was hit the hardest, being £2.6 million over its planned budget, with £250,000 of this allocated to staff costs to cover the extra beds kept open over April.
April usually sees a decline in A&E service demand, however official figures show that this year admissions rates rose from 306,288 in March to 306,500 in April. Although this may not seem like a massive difference, it is a huge contrast to the 6,000 drop in admissions that was experienced last year over the same period.
Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund, told the HSJ “You would normally expect as you come out of winter that the number of admissions for A&E and emergency admissions would drop off, and the A&E performance would improve.” Mr Murray also commented that it was unusual to see deficits this early in the financial year as well since budgets have only just been signed off.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said “Some parts of the NHS are running hot. That’s why we’re giving the NHS extra support again to ensure urgent and emergency care services are sustainable year round. But it’s also essential that chief executives have a tight financial grip and live within their means.”