Health service deficit 'alarming' says RCN general secretary

Unions all calling for Department for Health to urgently inject cash into NHS

The head of the nursing union has expressed alarm after the scale of NHS debt was revealed to be running close to £2 billion.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies spoke on behalf of staff and patients after the two regulators overseeing hospital trusts in the UK published their accounts today (Friday 9).

The 151 Foundation Trusts regulated by Monitor recorded a collective deficit of £445 million between the start of April and the end of June this year, and will end the 2015/16 year £1bn in the red. 

The 90 NHS trusts supervised by the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) fared no better with a combined deficit of £485m – £73m worse than expected – with 80% of its hospitals overspending in those three months.

They also spent more than £380m on agency and contract staff in response to understaffing. 

‘NHS trusts running deficits which run to the billions is alarming for us as nurses, as employees and as patients,’ Ms Davies said.

‘Trusts under severe financial pressure often struggle to deliver effective care and often end up in a cycle of reducing staff and then plugging the gaps at a high cost with temporary workers.

‘This isn’t a financial crisis which has emerged in the last few months – it is the inevitable culmination of years of rising demand and short term financial planning.

‘Services have been pared back and eroded repeatedly until now – when we can hear the pips squeak.

‘With winter pressures coming and cuts to public health budgets, the NHS will not only struggle to be on a good financial footing in the short term, but risks storing up even more problems for the next few years.

‘A financial crisis and a staffing crisis combined could cause ongoing chaos for years unless there is an urgent injection of cash.

‘There needs to be a concerted effort from Government, NHS trusts and local leaders in investing for the long term in the services we all rely on, and which are put at risk by deficits of this magnitude.’

Unison general secretary Dave Prentiss added: ‘It was always ludicrous to expect the NHS to make £22bn worth of savings.

‘There is a criminal shortage of medical and nursing staff. The government must invest substantial resources in more staff, extra training and start properly paying health workers or the NHS is at serious risk of collapse.'

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.