'Rapid deterioration' of NHS funds
NHS hospitals in England could face a combined deficit of more than £750 million this year, new figures suggest.
New research from the Health Service Journal (HSJ) found that 66 NHS hospital trusts are forecasting a deficit for this financial year, 10 think they will break even and 58 are forecasting surpluses.
The magazine obtained figures from all but six of England's 140 acute hospital trusts by asking for the most recent forecast. If that was not available HSJ obtained figures from the trust's financial plans.
They found that the 66 trusts predicting to be in the red were forecasting a combined deficit of £940 million. Meanwhile the gross surplus projected by the other trusts was just £167 million.
This would mean an overall deficit of £773 million.
Last month an influential think tank warned that NHS finances have been "stretched to the limit". The King's Fund said that there are "huge pressures" on the health service's purse strings.
The King's Fund's policy director Richard Murray told the magazine that it was "increasingly likely" that the NHS would need more money next year.
Meanwhile the Health Foundation's chief economist Anita Charlesworth told HSJ that a recruitment drive for nurses following the publication of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry could have contributed to the dire finances predicted for this year.
"We are seeing a rapid deterioration of finances as a result of fundamental underlying factors," she said.
"Many trusts started recruiting more nurses last autumn so they are going to see the full year costs for the first time in 2014/15. The concern is that the (national) strategy has been focused on a small number of providers and there is no plan from the (NHS Trust Development Authority) and Monitor for the whole sector having a generalised financial problem."
An NHS England spokeswoman said: "The primary responsibility for engaging with trusts facing financial challenges lies with the Trust Development Agency and Monitor.
"NHS England works closely with the TDA and Monitor at a national level, and at a local level, NHS England area teams and clinical commissioning groups will, as the commissioners of services, be working with trusts to ensure that services meet the needs of patients now and in the future."