NHS trusts warn of financial risks
More NHS trusts are facing increasing financial pressure and there are concerns over keeping waiting times low, according to a new report.
The study, from the regulator Monitor, found more NHS foundation trusts in England declaring themselves at financial risk than last year.
Of the 137 NHS foundation trusts that submitted plans, 11 have listed themselves with the highest or second highest financial risk rating. And a further 10 say they will experience a high level of financial risk at some point during the year.
All these 21 trusts are specialist or acute hospital trusts, and the figure is up on the 13 in 2010/11 that predicted financial risk over the next three years. Foundation trusts also warned they will find it difficult to keep waiting times low, with the pledge for patients to be treated within 18 weeks of referral by their GP posing a particular challenge.
While foundation trusts are currently on track to meet billions of pounds of savings demanded by the Government as part of its efficiency drive, "we believe that maintaining this for the following two years will be a significant challenge", the authors said.
Monitor's chair, Dr David Bennett, said: "The challenge of reducing costs must be met, but it is essential that good patient care is at the heart of this. This year we have put extra focus on identifying the potential risks to quality that could result from each trust's plan.
"The evidence we have seen in foundation trusts' plans suggests they are not planning to make savings by treating fewer patients or reducing the level of care for patients. Instead, they plan to make them through more efficient working on the front line and by reducing administrative or clerical costs."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "This Government is investing an extra £12.5 billion in the NHS. But increasing demands on services also mean we have to modernise the NHS if we want to sustain it and improve the quality of patient care.
"Our NHS bill strengthens the foundation trust model, ensuring that all hospitals are fit for the future. This report shows foundation trusts are prepared for the challenges ahead."
But shadow health secretary John Healey said: "David Cameron claims that his reckless NHS reorganisation will help the NHS deliver more efficient services. However, we now know that it is distracting the NHS from delivering challenging efficiency savings targets, with the NHS now facing a potential £1 billion black hole in savings."