Hospital Dr News

“Financial pressures may overwhelm trusts”

The number of NHS trusts in financial difficulty has more than doubled in a year an Audit Commission report reveals.

Across England the financial watchdog reports that NHS trusts and foundation trusts in deficit increased from 13 last year to 31 in 2011/12.

Thirty nine NHS trusts were in a poorer financial position in 2011/12 than in the previous year, and 18 NHS trusts and foundation trusts received financial support from the Department of Health.

The report also highlights a growing gap in health finances around the country with the majority of trusts in deficit located in London and the south-east.

Within London there are also substantial differences in the fortunes of trusts. As a region, London reported the highest surplus nationally, but it was home to the NHS trust with the highest deficit – South London Healthcare NHS Trust.

Outside of London, other areas face significant challenges. For example Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reported an operating deficit of £46 million.

But the report says that although it is concerned about a growing number of organisations that are in deficit NHS finances are still “healthy overall”.

Andy McKeon, managing director of health at the Audit Commission, said in 2011/12, the NHS as a whole made £1.6 billion in efficiency savings and a large number of trusts reported an improved financial position. The NHS ended the year with a £4 billion surplus and delivered the first tranche of the £20 billion savings required by 2014/15.

But he warned: “While nationally the NHS appears to be managing well financially, and preparing itself for the changes and challenges ahead, a number of PCTs and trusts are facing severe financial problems.”

Earlier this week David Bennett, interim chief executive of the regulator monitor told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee that he was concerned about the financial heath of a number of foundation trusts.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust Network said foundation trusts boards needed help to make changes before they effectively became bankrupt.

Prof John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, said: “It seems like the squeeze is tipping trusts over into deficit. The chances are this will get worse in the coming years.”

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar, warned: “Pressures are continuing to grow. It is worrying that the number of trusts in deficit has more than doubled in the past year and a significant number of trusts are receiving financial support. Unless we take action the pressures will overcome us.”

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