The biggest hospital trust in England has just set another record; accumulating the largest ever overspend in the history of the health service.
Barts Health NHS Trust, responsible for operating four hospitals in East London and employing 15,000 people serving an area of 2.5 million potential patients, has smashed all financial records in NHS history…and not in a good way.
Having run up a deficit of £135 million, its total overspend is nearly 70% larger than for the previous financial year.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the previous overspend was the previous highest deficit in the history of the NHS; indicating that this trust certainly needs a new financial direction.
However, this figure is no longer the second largest deficit in the history of the health service, as it has been revealed that another London trust has now exceeded the figure from last year.
London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which operates four hospitals, had suffered such a sharp decline in its finances that it was due to end the year £88.3m in the red.
Commenting on the figures, Prof Chris Ham, chief executive of the independent health thinktank, the King’s Fund, opined that they were indicative of a broader financial malaise.
“These forecast deficits provide further evidence of the escalating financial crisis in the NHS, as well as the longstanding challenges facing London’s health system. In the case of Barts, these pressures have been exacerbated by the costs of a major PFI development.”
Now that these figures have been reported, what can be said with some confidence is that the extra £1.8 billion of funding that has been came out for the NHS in England next year is likely to be insufficient.
Indeed, the aforementioned Ham is sceptical about the Conservative government’s plans for the NHS.
“The extra funding provided by the government is being used mainly to get the NHS back into financial balance but even this must be in doubt given the scale of the deficits now being reported. 2016/17 will be a make-or-break year for the NHS.”
In defence of Barts, the sheer size of the trust means that in percentage terms the deficit is perhaps not more significant than other similar figures.
But the fact that numerous NHS trusts are now running up massive deficits indicates the difficulty of the financial challenges now facing the health service and those responsible for it.
Analysts are already suggesting that the incredible size and scale of deficits facing trusts in London in particular means that extra money is increasingly unlikely to reach local practices or improve access for patients.