NHS trust's overspend hits £1.6bn

NHS Trust spending has increased to £1.6bn this year and no signs of easing off. 

Experts suggest that the financial problems are the worst to hit the sector for a generation.  Figures relate to 241 trusts running hospital, mental health, ambulance and some community services.  Between them they account for about two-thirds of the NHS's £116bn budget - with the rest going on other areas including GPs, drug prescribing and training.

Overall, eight in 10 trusts were in deficit by the end of September.  The combined overspend is already nearly double what it was for the entire 2014-15 financial year.  Then, the NHS finished £822m in the red - with the health service as a whole balancing the books only after a cash injection from the Treasury and by raiding the capital budget earmarked for buildings.

Spending review

Overspending on agency staff has been highlighted as one of the major problems as well as rising demand for services - and there will now be further pressure on health bosses to cut back on spending.

The regulators also warned hospitals were facing growing problems discharging patients - this happens when there are not enough services available in the community either from councils or the NHS to care for the most vulnerable.

The news comes at a difficult time for the NHS. Performance is already suffering with many of the major targets, including ones for A&E, ambulances and cancer care, being missed, while health chiefs are having to prepare for three days of industrial action by junior doctors.

The release of the figures by the regulators Monitor and the Trust Development Authority comes ahead of the spending review next week when Chancellor George Osborne will announced his plans for this Parliament.

The government has promised the NHS an extra £8bn by 2020. Health service leaders have called for that money to be "front-loaded" so that most of it comes in the first few years to help them get on top of the pressures.

Jim Mackey, the incoming chief executive of the regulatory bodies, said the current situation was "really challenging".

Anita Charlesworth, chief economist at the Health Foundation, said: "The figures confirm the truly dire state of NHS finances.

"Next week's spending review needs to address the unprecedented scale of challenge."

Meanwhile, the BBC has learnt that, ahead of the spending review, there is consideration being given to cutting some parts of health spending.  The promises made by government have been specifically aimed at the front-line of the NHS.

Planned cuts will include those within sexual health, smoking cessation as well as training budgets.

Posted on Monday Nov 23