Hospitals and other NHS organisations in England ended the financial year with a combined deficit of £822m, according to new figures that confirm the dire state of the health service’s finances.
Rising patient demand and a huge bill for expensive agency staff, used to plug holes in staffing rotas, has forced dozens of hospitals into an overspend.
The Government said that while it was aware of the challenges the NHS was facing, it was up to hospitals themselves to “show tight financial grip and live within their means”. But Labour said the figures represented a “financial crisis” and warned that without more money over the next two years, the NHS would have to cut staffing, beds and services.
Health regulator Monitor said that while the past year had been “exceptionally challenging”, 2015/16 is likely to be even tougher.
Within the foundation trust sector – which includes 152 NHS trusts – the spend on agency staff hit £1.8bn for the 2014/15 – more than double the amount planned for.
The deficits come despite a number of multimillion pound Government bailouts for struggling hospitals. Ministers have pledged to increase the NHS budget by £8bn annually by 2020. However, the health service in England will still have to find “efficiency savings” worth £22bn by that date, simply to maintain services at the their current level.
The increasing strain on NHS resources
Labour leadership frontrunner and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: “Without more money this year and next, the NHS will have to brace itself for a round of severe cuts to staffing, beds and services.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We know the NHS is busier than ever and trusts are facing challenges; however we expect them to show tight financial grip and live within their means. We have backed the NHS's own plan for the future by investing the £8bn needed to deliver it.”Reuse content