NHS foundation trusts in England are £445m in debt — £90m worse than expected — and facing one of their toughest financial years ever, according to the foundation trust regulator Monitor.
The deficit for the first quarter of the 2015–2016 financial year is £96m more than the entire debt for the previous financial year, its quarterly financial report published on 9 October 2015 reveals.
Monitor says the current level of debt — attributed mostly to the need to employ expensive agency or bank staff to meet unfilled vacancies — is “not affordable”.
A second report published on the same day by the Trust Development Agency — the organisation that supports non-foundation trusts — reveals a similar picture.
Its quarterly report for 1 April 2015 to 30 June 2015 says that 72 of the 86 NHS trusts it supports finished the first quarter £485m in deficit against an initial planned deficit of £412m.
The increased debt was attributed to higher than planned use of agency staff paid at “premium rates”, pressure on hospital beds created by increased demand for urgent and emergency care, and difficulties around the discharge of medically fit patients who are waiting to be discharged into other care settings.
Most of the debt — £474m — was shared between 55 acute trusts. But all trusts – acute, ambulance, mental health and community – were struggling across all regions. There were 14 trusts in deficit out of the 17 trusts in London; 27 out of 34 trusts in the Midlands and East region; 13 out of 18 trusts in the North; and 18 out of 21 trusts in the South.