NHS finances have plummeted to a shocking low as trusts rack up a deficit fast approaching £1 billion in just three months, more than the total for the whole of last year.

Overall the trusts booked a shortfall of £930 million for April to June, rocketing from the £451 million reported for the same period of last year.

Of this, £445 million came from foundation trusts (FT) while £485 million came from ‘normal’ NHS trusts, as more than 50% overall swung into the red.

On both sides, higher than planned levels of agency staffing “paid for at premium rates” to help meet surging demand and improve service quality were blamed as a key driver of cost. 

FT regulator Monitor says the sector is now facing “a worst in a generation financial position”, and must make “radical changes” to how care is delivered if it is to cope with growing demands on services going forward.

The bleak figures “reiterate that the sector is under massive pressure and must change to counter it,” noted David Bennett, chief executive at Monitor. “The NHS simply can no longer afford operationally and financially to operate in the way it has been and must act now to deliver the substantial efficiency gains required to ensure patients get the services they need,” he said.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the results are not a surprise. Both “are doing everything they possibly can to avoid financial deficits, but they are experiencing a triple whammy: rapidly rising patient demand; an extra £2 billion unfunded staff cost they have been required to add; and the deepest and longest funding squeeze in NHS history, despite the NHS ring fence”. 

Deficit unsustainable

“The NHS needs to come together to create a realistic and deliverable financial stabilisation plan that eliminates the provider sector deficit within a reasonable period of time and enables trusts to plan for a sustainable future,” he said. “This is now urgent as running a £2 billion annual provider sector deficit is patently unsustainable”.

Chris Ham, chief executive of think-tank The King’s Fund, said “overspending on this scale cannot be attributed to mismanagement or waste among individual trusts. It reflects the impossible task of delivering high-quality care for patients with inadequate funding”.

“Unless emergency funding is announced in the forthcoming Spending Review, a rapid and serious decline in patient care is inevitable,” he warned.