FINANCES in NHS England are deteriorating at an alarming rate, according to the latest survey of health service finance directors.
Eight out of ten (82%) NHS Trust finance directors say rising agency staff costs are a major cause of pay cost pressure, while over 70% of Commissioning Care Group CFOs cite continuing health care and emergency care costs as core fiscal stress points.
The latest ‘NHS financial temperature check‘ from the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), the body representing a third of NHS finance staff, found that finance directors budgets also suffered from lower than expected savings from cost improvement plans.
The survey found that 74% of trust finance directors and 39% of commissioner finance directors are forecasting a gloomier 2014/15 year-end financial position than 2013/14. Adding to the sense of despair, 38% of commissioner and trust finance directors are predicting equally downbeat assessments, indicative of “a rapid deterioration in the finances of nearly two out of five NHS organisations”.
Speaking in the aftermath of George Osborne’s announcement of an additional £2bn for the NHS, Paul Briddock, HFMA’s director of policy and a former FD of Sheffield Children’s Hospital and the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, said: “While we welcome the recent announcement of additional funding for 2015/16, there is no quick fix. It is clear that there has been a rapid deterioration in the financial position of the NHS during this financial year and financial pressure is being felt across the whole NHS system, but particularly in acute trusts.
“There must be an open and honest debate about how this money should be spent, and the importance of not only maintaining existing service and quality, but ensuring fundamental transformation of the service. The future success of the NHS depends on fast and effective clinically led transformation of services and clear, aligned system leadership.”
Yet despite the growing fears over the future finances, the overwhelming majority of finance directors, 94%, don’t expect any deterioration in the quality of services in 2014/15, with nearly half (44%) actually predicting a and improvement and 51% expecting it to stay the same.
But 6% of FD’s said they expected service quality to fall in 2014/15, and that sense of pessimism more than doubles to 13% in 2015/16.
Access to services and waiting times were the twin areas identified as most under threat from the increasing squeeze on finances.