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Reaction to the £1bn NHS provider deficit for 2017-2018

Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund said:

“The overspend of just short of £1 billion by frontline NHS providers is another clear warning that the NHS can no longer deliver the standards of care expected of it within the current funding settlement. The cost of the pressures on frontline services is not just financial but is seen in patients having their operations cancelled or facing longer waits for urgent and planned care.

“The fact that staffing budgets were overspent by nearly £1.5 billion during a year where pay was held down and spending on agency staff was cut, underlines the huge pressures on overstretched staff who are delivering more care than ever before despite staff vacancies now reaching 100,000.’

“It is now an open secret that the system for managing NHS finances is fundamentally broken. Many NHS organisations are being set annual financial targets they have no realistic hope of achieving, while providers of community, mental health and ambulance services are effectively underwriting substantial overspends in acute hospitals.

“While a difficult winter no doubt had some effect, the challenges facing the NHS are not the consequence of a few bad months – they are the result of rising demand for services, a prolonged funding squeeze and a growing workforce crisis. Unless the long-term funding settlement promised by the Prime Minister provides the stability the service desperately needs, it is clear that standards of care will continue to deteriorate and patients will wait longer to access NHS services.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“If you wanted evidence of a system under strain – this is it. The start of this year saw 220,000 more patients attending accident and emergency departments. A further 70,000 more needed admittance. Hospitals and community services ended last year £960 million in deficit, routine operations had to be cancelled and more than 2,500 patients are now waiting more than a year for their operation.

“In spite of heroic efforts by staff, too many patients are being let down by an understaffed and underfunded system.

“This is not just about hospitals. The whole system is struggling to cope.

“The recent report we commissioned from the Institute for Fiscal Studies demolished the idea that the current system and funding levels are sustainable. Without new ways of delivering services and sustained investment, NHS and social care services will not cope, and we will face a decade – let alone a winter – of misery in which the old, the sick and the vulnerable will be let down.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“Today’s figures are a stark warning about the escalating service pressures and financial crisis taking hold of the NHS. This reflects what doctors are saying on the ground –  that there is insufficient capacity coupled with record levels of demand, resulting in a deficit worse than expected. This shows that the NHS simply cannot provide the safe, high-quality care that patients deserve within the current funding settlement.

“Without more sustained investment in staff and services, the NHS will continue to struggle to meet demand, and the current workforce will be stretched even more thinly, compounding recruitment and retention problems. It’s time for politicians to act – the NHS urgently needs more funding to halt its decline and put the health service on a sustainable footing for the future.”

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