Hospital Dr News

NHS providers heading towards £523m deficit for 2017/2018 after first quarter

NHS providers are on course for a deficit of £523 million at the end of 2017/18 against total revenues of over £80 billion.

The latest data from NHS Improvement shows that 88% of NHS providers (206 out of 233) have agreed ambitious financial control totals for 2017/18, and 71% are delivering on them.

Rising demand for A&E services continues to be a challenge, along with the discharge of medically fit patients.

Between April and June 2017, emergency admissions via A&E increased by 3.8% compared to same period last year; and A&E attendances overall went up by 2.9% compared to the same period.

In June, 55% of delayed transfers of care were caused by the NHS and 38% by social care – the lowest and highest respectively since records began in 2010.

Extremely high levels of bed occupancy negatively affect providers’ ability to admit patients who require planned care.

Between April and June 2017, the average sector-wide acute bed occupancy level was 89.1%, with occupancy in general and acute beds routinely running in the low 90% occupancy levels.

On the positive side, NHS providers have continued to improve their financial resilience by driving down their spending on expensive agency staff.

Between April and June 2017, providers’ overall spending on agency shifts was £169 million, which was 22% lower compared with the same period last year.

Jim Mackey, NHS Improvement Chief Executive, said: “Financially, providers have made a very strong start to the year, and should be applauded for this.

“There are lots of risks ahead in terms of the sector’s finances, but the results from the first quarter are very encouraging, and demonstrate that the majority of trusts are sticking to, or ahead of, their financial plans.”

A&E operational performance has shown signs of improvement. Performance against the four-hour standard is running at just over 90%, in line with national plans for the service to deliver 90% by September 2017.

But there are significant concerns about the impending winter pressures.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The truth is that the whole system, including those who commission care, as well as those who provide both health and care services are facing very difficult choices.

“Last year the NHS managed incredibly well but we cannot continue just to rely on a hope that viruses will not wreak havoc, that the weather will be clement and that staff commitment will get us through.

“As summer fades, the prospect of another difficult winter looms. The challenge lies not just in hospitals – we have shortages of community nurses, GPs, social care services and nursing home places, all of which are vital in taking pressure off the hospitals.”


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