Almost a quarter of CCGs are forecasting end of year deficits for 2016-17, more than double this time last year, a new report from The King’s Fund has revealed.
It found that 23% of finance leads for 44 CCGs were predicting a deficit, while 61% were concerned about meeting the productivity targets they have been set this year.
Meanwhile, nearly half (47%) of NHS trusts are forecasting end of year deficits.
Pulse has revealed that a number of CCGs are considering radical rationing plans as a result of their poor finances, including NHS St Helens CCG’s proposals to stop all non-emergency referrals this winter – which it later backed down from.
The think-tank’s quarterly monitoring report points to rising demand for NHS services which ‘have soared to record levels’.
For each month in the first quarter of the year there were an additional 54,000 attendances at A&E departments and 14,200 emergency hospital admissions compared with the same time last year.
Other key findings include:
- the total elective waiting list of patients continues to grow, with an estimated 3.8 million patients waiting for treatment in June 2016 – highest level since December 2007
- in the first quarter 9.7% of patients spent longer than four hours in A&E –the highest level at this time of year since 2003/4
- more than 90% of beds occupied by patients – well above the threshold that is considered safe
- more than one million patients were admitted to hospital from A&E in the first quarter of 2016/17
- the number of patients attending A&E departments soared to nearly six million
- 6,100 patients were medically fit to leave hospital but still awaiting discharge at the end of June 2016 – the highest number since data collection began and an increase of 22% on June 2015
The King’s Fund policy director, Richard Murray, warned that unless more is done to tackle rising demand, ‘the ideas emerging from sustainability and transformation plans about cutting beds and reconfiguring hospitals will look even more unrealistic’.
‘While new investment and actions taken to tackle overspending have reduced deficits among NHS providers in the first quarter of the year, it would be a mistake to suggest that the financial pressures which have engulfed the NHS have eased.’
BMA council chair Mark Porter said: ‘This is yet another report which shows the health service simply cannot keep up with unrelenting demand.
‘Up and down the country, hospitals are being forced to close their doors, or limit access to vital services like paediatrics and emergency care due to chronic understaffing. Yet at the same time the Government is trying to force through a junior doctor contract that risks fuelling the workforce crisis.’
Dr Porter added: ‘This is crippling at a time when we need more of these doctors to keep up with rising demand on services. It also creates a vicious circle, adding to pressures on existing doctors, further increasing the risk of burnout and making these areas of medicine less attractive to doctors in training.’