NHS trusts have been told by the health service regulator, Monitor, that their financial plans are unaffordable and emergency measures must be taken to reduce the deficits. 

In a letter sent to NHS Foundation Trusts on Monday 3 August 2015, Monitor chief executive, David Bennett, stated that the current financial forecasts for 2015-16 are “simply unaffordable.” He urges each foundation trust to revisit its plans and that “no stone is left unturned” in an attempt to make the available funds stretch as far as possible.

One of the money-saving recommendations made in Mr Bennett’s letter is that vacancies should be filled only where essential and to ensure that existing safe staffing guidance has been adopted in a “proportionate and appropriate way”. He suggests that rosters should be rigorously managed to deploy staff efficiently across all required shifts, including evenings and weekends. The letter also advises that financial impact should be considered while managing waiting lists, as well as patient experience.

Nick Triggle, health correspondence for the BBC, commented that NHS trusts are essentially “caught between a rock and a hard place,” facing pressure from Monitor to keep a tight control on finances, while trying to maintain standards.  

It was reported in May 2012 that hospitals and NHS organisations in England ended the financial year with a total deficit of £822m, compared with £115m the previous year. Although the NHS has been promised an extra £8bn by the Government this year, it is also being asked to make a £22bn saving to fill the shortfall, which is predicted to reach £30bn by 2020. 

You can read our previous article on the reported deficit here

Mr Bennett noted that, although Monitor is reviewing the trusts with the largest deficits, it was clear that this process would not “close the funding gap” and that all providers needed to look at their plans to see what else can be done. 

There are also concerns that the ever-increasing pressures on NHS trusts to reduce their deficits and cut costs could hit standards of patient care. Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, told ITV news: “While trusts must do all they can to stay on top of their finances, there can be no compromise on safe staffing levels, nor should money in any way determine how many staff are needed to provide safe care.” 

Penningtons Manches sees many clients who have sustained injuries which could have been avoided if proper funding had been in place. Although we recognise the importance of reducing the deficits, it is vital that funding is provided to ensure that patient services are not compromised and to prevent any future deterioration in NHS services.