NHS foundation trusts post deficit
NHS foundation trusts are under "unprecedented pressure", a health regulator has warned after a new report showed that the supposedly best hospital trusts in the country posted a deficit for the first time.
Foundation trusts are seen as a hallmark of excellence in the health service but many of the organisations appear to be struggling with their finances, according to a new report by Monitor.
The sector as a whole has posted a deficit for the first time, according to Monitor's report detailing the performance of 147 foundation trusts in the first quarter of 2014/15.
Monitor said the trusts reported a deficit of £167 million compared with a planned deficit of £80 million.
The report states that 86 foundation trusts were in the red.
Their combined deficit was £227 million which was offset by 61 of the bodies drumming up a surplus of £60 million.
Foundation trusts are awarded their title when they are considered well run enough to take on more independence from their local health authority. They have a significant amount of managerial and financial freedom compared to other NHS trusts. The bodies make up two thirds of all NHS trusts in England.
As well as posting a deficit, the foundation trust sector failed to meet a number of national waiting time targets, Monitor said.
It said that 18,200 patients received cancer treatment, but the sector failed to treat 15% of them within 62 days of referral by a GP.
Overall, foundation trusts breached the target to treat 90% of admitted patients within 18 weeks of referral and the sector also failed the A&E waiting time target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours.
Dr David Bennett, chief executive at Monitor, said: "Trusts are striving to overcome the challenges they face while still meeting patients' expectations for quality care. However, we believe trusts can make further progress by improving their planning, aggressively implementing best operational practices and working more effectively across local systems.
"In particular, getting a greater grip on their staffing costs, especially for agency staff, will help trusts increase their financial resilience. But many trusts also need strong support from their staff to identify and urgently deliver cost savings, with ideas for redesigning operations being implemented at maximum pace."
Commenting on the report, Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "We have been warning for some time that NHS trusts will fall further into deficit as they try to balance rising demand for care against flat funding.
"These figures are more evidence of the incessant demand faced by our members this year and the impact on their finances as they strive to deliver safe care every hour of every day. Health and social care leaders are working tirelessly to ensure this remains the case."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We've taken tough decisions to increase the NHS budget by £12.7 billion over this Parliament.
"We expect trusts to show tight financial grip and ensure they live within their means.
"Delivering high quality services and balancing the books must go hand in hand and we expect trusts to achieve this during the course of the financial year or there will be tough consequences."
Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: " The NHS is heading rapidly in the wrong direction. It is not just standards of patient care that are getting worse but NHS finances too.
"David Cameron must take urgent action to stabilise the deteriorating situation - patients fear much worse will be in store next year. This is why he is losing public trust on the NHS."