NHS trusts in England have racked up a deficit approaching £1billion in the first three months of the financial year – the “worst” financial position in a generation.
The figure is more than the £820million overspend for the entire previous year, and it has been suggested the deficit among the trusts could top £2bn at the end of the current financial year.
Regulator Monitor warned the NHS is “under massive pressure” and can no longer afford to go on as it is, having reached a “worst in a generation financial position”.
The figures for April to June showed NHS Foundation Trusts had a deficit of £445m – £90m worse than planned – while other trusts were £485m in deficit.
The spiralling cost of expensive agency staff was highlighted as a major cause of the overspend.
The figures from Monitor cover 151 NHS foundation trusts, while a separate study from the Trust Development Authority (TDA) covers 90 NHS trusts, and come after all trusts were asked to reassess their finances to try and save more money in July.
In Yorkshire, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust chiefs held an “extraordinary financial stretch meeting” after being asked to save an extra £5.5m from a planned £40.2m deficit earlier this year, while Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust was tasked with cutting an extra £5.9m from its £21.9m deficit.
Dr David Bennett, chief executive at Monitor, said: “Trusts are working hard to provide patients with quality care.
“However, today’s figures reiterate that the sector is under massive pressure and must change to counter it.
“The NHS simply can no longer afford operationally and financially to operate in the way it has been and must act now to deliver the substantial efficiency gains required to ensure patients get the services they need.”
Nationally foundation trusts missed key waiting time targets, including the A&E target for people to be seen within four hours. Targets for routine operations and some cancer treatments were also missed.
A lack of beds meant 29,000 people waited on a trolley for more than four hours between the decision to admit them to A&E and their arrival on a ward.
The national waiting list for routine surgery increased nine per cent, compared to the same period last year, to 1.9m people.
Monitor said trusts had “struggled to deal with an increase in demand for diagnostic tests, partly due to staff shortages and ineffectively organised services”.
It said trusts has an “over-reliance” on agency staff but stated the report covered the period before new rules were brought in to clampdown on agencies, which cost the NHS more than £3bn.
The NHS has been paying agencies up to £3,500 per shift for doctors, and the bill for management consultants was £600m last year.
Last year the agency spend in Yorkshire increased by a third to £113m and continues to be a financial burden nationally.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We know finances are challenging for parts of the NHS, but we’ve committed to investing £10bn to fund the NHS’s own plan for the future.
“The NHS must play its part in delivering efficiencies – so we’re taking action to help hospitals clamp down on rip-off staffing agencies and cut spending on management consultants. We expect the impact of these measures to be reflected in figures released later in the year.”
Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said the release of the figures was delayed because of the Tory party conference as “they show an NHS in crisis”.