Financial woes growing in NHS hospital trusts

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The number of NHS foundation trusts breaching an urgent cancer target has more than quadrupled in a year, while more trusts are struggling with finances, a report has found.

The study from Monitor, which regulates England’s 147 foundation trusts, said 39 trusts are now in deficit, almost double the 21 in the same period last year and more than the 24 expected. The combined financial hole of these trusts is £180m – higher than the £168m anticipated, with 60 per cent of the deficit concentrated in five organisations. A further 17 trusts have “very small” deficits.

The research also showed that performance against a key target for urgent cancer referrals has fallen to its lowest level in two years.

The Government target is for 85 per cent of patients with suspected cancer to start treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred by their GP.

Quarterly figures for October to December 2013 show 18 trusts breached this target, up from 12 the previous quarter and compared with just four in the same period the previous year.

Monitor said reasons given
for breaches vary between trusts, but an increase in the number of referrals by GPs “is a possible common factor”. Late referrals and consultant cover were
also mentioned as troubling issues.

Trusts did perform well, however, against a target to see the most urgent cases within two weeks.