The National Audit Office has assessed the financial problems in the NHS as being endemic.
Despite the fact that the government has already promised extra funding for the health service, the National Audit Office believes that this provides no guarantee of recovery.
Vast levels of deficit are becoming normal practice according to the auditing organisation, and existing plans to boost the health budget will be insufficient to reverse the existing situation.
Last month, ministers unveiled plans to increase the NHS budget by £8.4bn above inflation in this Parliament.
But it is already known that the NHS faces a deficit of around £30 billion by the end of this decade.
This year, a deficit of more than £2bn is being forecast by NHS trusts.
Not only is this a massive figure, it also indicates the extent to which the situation is deteriorating.
The NHS ran up a significant budget deficit during the last financial year, but this figure was only just over £800 million.
Health ministers have suggested that most of this figure can be recovered by efficiency savings.
But the NAO said it was not clear if that would lead to stability.
In terms of creating a stabilised service, the National Audit Office suggested that the NHS England England five-year plan for reforming services will be absolutely essential.
The so-called Five-Year Forward View aims to save £22bn by 2020.
But the National Audit Office has poured scorn on this particular scheme, suggesting that it is reliant on untested plans for which there is limited evidence.
Overall, three-quarters of the 239 trusts were overspent at the half-year mark, with the most serious problems being seen in hospitals.
The National Audit Office paints a picture of an unsustainable situation in the health service, and one that could ultimately consume much of the budget increases allocated to the NHS.
Commenting on of the situation, the head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, called on the government to take decisive action.
“Running a deficit seems to be becoming normal practice for acute trusts,” he said.
Meg Hillier, chair of the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, said: “It is simply unacceptable. The strain placed on NHS trusts shows no sign of abating.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister David Prior defended the government’s accounting plans, and opined that the extra money for the NHS in the coming years indicated the commitment of the government to the NHS.
“Hospitals must now show tight financial grip and fully introduce our measures to reduce expensive temporary staffing and drive through the productivity and efficiency improvements,” Prior stated.