A failed firebreak – Anita Charlesworth

Life has few certainties, but it is beyond doubt that NHS providers were mired in a financial black hole during 2015/16. Tomorrow, the official report on the fourth quarter financial outturn for England’s hospitals is due to be published by NHS Improvement. The HSJ reports the overall deficit may be worse than feared, at around £2.7bn. To add to the gloom, that figure is not the whole picture. To get to that total, capital projects have been delayed and investment funds used to support day-to-day running costs. The underlying run rate deficit is almost certainly significantly worse than the headline total.

Whether you are of a glass half full or a glass half empty disposition, there is no getting away from the fact that NHS provider finances are, by every measure imaginable, in a truly dreadful state. The risks associated with the current financial situation should worry many more people than just those in the Treasury. While NHS finances have fallen off a cliff, performance on waiting times – only one aspect of quality, but one that still matters to patients and the public – has continued to deteriorate. A stark reminder that while the relationship between quality and money is complex, it cannot be ignored. Organisations under extreme stress are fragile and risky. And across the NHS the mood could not be bleaker.

– See more at The Health Foundation 19 May 2016