NHS trusts’ overspend is £3bn higher than reported, study claims

trusts in England ended last year with an overspend almost £3bn more than previously reported after temporary funding boosts and one-off savings were stripped out, according to new analysis.

The Nuffield Trust found the actual overspend in 2016-17 was £3.7bn, compared with the £791m reported by NHS regulators, which was already above the £580m maximum sought by health service bosses.

In a report published on Thursday the thinktank also says the NHS faces a “next to impossible” task in hitting the target of ending the current financial year with a deficit of just under £500m.

Sally Gainsbury, a senior policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust and author of the report, said: “The official figures on NHS deficits don’t reflect how severe things are for hospitals in England, as the deficits reported include one-off funding boosts or savings that cannot be repeated the following year. Only by looking at the deficit after these have been stripped out can we see the scale of financial challenge facing the NHS – and it is eye-watering.”

The report says trusts have succeeded in making billions of pounds of efficiency savings but these have largely been absorbed by inflation and reductions in the tariff paid to them per patient.

Among the items it says helped flatter the financial position of the 238 NHS acute, mental health, ambulance and community services trusts last year were a £1.8bn injection of cash from the emergency sustainability fund and about £300m the report puts down to “accountancy changes”.

Full story The Guardian, 31 August 2017