MPs have issued warnings that the future of the NHS is at risk as they reveal figures indicating that the number of hospital requiring Governmental bail-out has doubled in one year.
A report issued by the National Audit Office (NAO) indicates that during the last financial year, 31 hospitals received Government handouts to the value of half a billion pounds.
During the previous year, 16 trusts were given financial aid, to the value of £263m.
In the meantime, the gross deficit across NHS trusts has almost trebled in one year, reaching a figure of £743m during 2013/14.
At the close of the last financial year, 63 trusts showed losses, compared with 25 during the previous year.
The chairman of the committee of public accounts, Margaret Hodge, said this report was deeply alarming and that the future sustainability of the NHS is at risk. She said patients are probably suffering due to the increasing financial problems.
Figures released this week indicate that a record number of patients now wait at least 18 weeks for treatment on the NHS.
Statistics from NHS England indicate that for September 3.2 million patients were on a waiting list and 37712 of those have waited longer than the 18-week target. This is the highest number since April 2008 when the introduction of the target commenced.
The chief finance officer of NHS England, Paul Baumann, said at a board meeting that they have been on the edge of a knife this year and the organisation is unable to guarantee against any unexpected disasters as they approach winter.
The shadow health minister, Jamie Reed, said people will become concerned if they hear NHS bosses talking about potential imminent disasters. He said ministers should feel ashamed that the NHS has reached this point.
Experts state that the sudden decline in NHS finances indicates that hospitals have run out of ways to make savings.
The head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, said that unless the Department can offer explanations as to how it will collaborate with NHs England, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor on methods to address financial pressures quickly, without resorting to fund support, there can be no confidence that over the next five years value for money will be achieved.
Hospitals are currently struggling to cope with the demands placed on them due to the aging population, the increased costs of equipment and drugs, tighter budgets and demands for efficiency savings of £15bn by next year.
During last month, the head of the NHS said services require an additional £8bn boost in funding during the next parliamentary session to eliminate a £30bn black hole in funding, which would otherwise be opened by 2021.
According to Simon Stevens, it would be possible for the NHS to save £22bn through modernisation and efficiencies, however it would need an additional 1.5% of real term funding a year to cope with the increase in demand.
According to experts, clinical commissioning groups were trying to force hospital efficiency by giving them less funds for the same activity, but this type of pressure is what is placing them in the red.
Mrs Hodge’s concern is that there are a number of trusts that only manage because they receive handouts from central funding on a regular basis. She said the bail-out amounts have doubled from £263m during 2012/13 to £511m during 2013/14.
She said that things are not getting any better and when trusts are placed under this sort of financial stress, the safety and quality of care of patients suffers.
The highest deficits reported during 2013/14 were from:
• University Hospitals, Leicester – £39.7m
• Barts Health – £38.3m
• Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals – £37.8m
• Stamford and Peterborough Hospitals – £36.8m
• University Hospitals North Cumbria – £27.1m
• United Lincolnshire Hospitals – £25.8m
• Mid-Staffordshire Hospitals – £24.8m
• Sherwood Forest Hospitals – £23.5m
• North West London Hospitals – £23.3m
• East Sussex Healthcare – £23.1m
Image Credit: Lydia