NHS trusts on course to overshoot budgets by £850m, figures suggest

NHS hospital trusts are on course to overshoot their budgets by £850m this year, more than three times the deficit health service bosses said was acceptable, research has shown.

Such an overspend would be a setback for NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, and Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, as they have pledged to ensure that trusts end the year no more than £250m in the red.

The impending deficit, uncovered by the Health Service Journal, threatens to derail the agreement the NHS reached with the Treasury in July to “reset” the service’s disastrous finances this year in return for receiving £3.8bn upfront of its planned £8bn extra funding.

The £850m sum emerged from figures supplied to the magazine by all but five of England’s 237 NHS trusts, now more than halfway through the service’s 2016-17 financial year, and its monitoring of trust boards’ financial reports.

“This is an embarrassment for Jeremy Hunt and shows the scale of the financial challenge in the NHS,” said Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary. “After ending the last financial year with a record deficit, we were told that NHS trusts would get their deficits down to £250m. These projections show that target lies in tatters, with the true deficit likely to be triple that.”

The £850m is even bigger than the £550m-£580m overspend that some NHS leaders have said is the most the service can afford to overspend by this year without risking major financial problems. However, NHS Improvement, the health service’s financial regulator, has already warned that a figure as high as £550m would make management of the overall NHS financial position very risky.

Full story in The Guardian 10 November 2016