Reports say more than half of hospitals in the UK are now in operating in deficit – with many warning they can no longer provide services of the quality expected without going further into the red.
With operation waiting lists currently at a six-year high, and an increasing demand for A&E care, finding a resolution to the problem will be tough.
NHS leaders have reportedly warned that without an urgent bailout from the government, hospitals’ overall deficit is likely is likely to be approaching £1bn by the time the financial year ends in March 2015.
Hospital bosses have described the current position as “a car crash” and “an absolute disaster”, with one describing the demand for care being so relentless that “it’s now like winter all year round.”
However, according to the Department of Health, simply throwing extra cash at the situation is not an option, insisting that despite the financial squeeze, all Trusts must control their finances while also providing the best possible care.
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne has blamed the coalition’s radical restructuring of the NHS last year for the current, worrying situation, whilst a Department of Health added: “We’ve taken tough decisions to increase the NHS budget by £12.7bn over this parliament. We understand some trusts are facing challenges because of increasing demand but they must have a tight financial grip and ensure they live within their means.
“Delivering high quality services and balancing the books must go hand in hand, and we expect trusts to deliver this during the course of the financial year.”
Given the increasing pressure on hospitals, the prospect of preventable errors and incidents of will no doubt be more likely, especially with the manner in which no win no fee cases have evolved.
It will now be fascinating to see the next step taken by health secretary Jeremy Hunt. He has already given hospitals more than £1bn of extra funding over the last year to help them cope with winter pressures and tackle a mounting backlog of operations.
That backlog looks set to remain though – or perhaps get worse – before things start to get better.