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Unison Bedford Hospital Branch 01427

Deficits of East of England NHS Trusts top £200 million

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The latest national figures showing the underfunding of NHS Trusts in England at £1.6 billion do not include any regional or local breakdown. But a snapshot survey for UNISON in November shows every one of the 18 acute trusts in the East of England is currently in deficit, with 7 of them projecting deficits of £25 million or more at the end of the year.

UNISON’s report, taking figures from the latest trust board reports (some of them dating back to September) shows that 8 acute hospital trusts providing emergency and elective services are already dealing with deficits this year in excess of the £10 million which resulted in the crisis and collapse of care in Mid Staffordshire ten years ago.

The situation is also dire for the Clinical Commissioning Groups which hold the budgets for most health services: almost half (9 out of 19) of Eastern Region CCGs are also expecting to at best break even, or to end the year with deficits, four of them in excess of £10 million, with a highest shortfall of £24 million.

These pressures on commissioners mean that some have begun to seek “savings” at the expense of local trusts by cutting budgets, or in the case of Essex CCGs, excluding certain treatments from the NHS, obliging local patients to go private or go without.

With many trusts in the region – such as the giant Norfolk & Norwich Hospital – running already at winter occupancy levels, or having to divert emergency patients, despite the late onset of winter weather, there are fears that cash-cutting measures could result in a loss of quality or inadequate services. Six of the region’s acute foundation trusts have been “red rated” by the regulator, Monitor, and several face enforcement or special measures as a result of failings identified by the care Quality Commission.

But it’s not just the NHS that is struggling under the government’s deliberate austerity cuts. Social care budgets run by local government have been slashed, with care services 

fragmented and privatised, leaving little in the way of support for vulnerable patients discharged from hospital. So patients who are medically fit but awaiting care packages accumulate, becoming ‘Delayed Transfer of Care’ statistics, and filling up to 20% of the beds in Addenbrookes and other hospitals.

The trust running Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow has drawn the painful conclusion that their reducing budgets are no longer adequate to sustain their full complement of beds, and more or less given up.  At the end of October the Board declared that the trust is “not viable financially and is becoming unviable clinically.”

The Princess Alexandra trust has not agreed to sign up to delivering the requirement for expanded emergency services because “We feel patient safety and staff safety are potentially being compromised with the volume of work being delivered and the physical number of beds open at PAH without substantive staff.”

Releasing the new figures in the Eastern Eye report “The East is (in the ) Red,” UNISON’s Eastern Region Head of Health, Tracey Lambert said:

“These figures confirm the growing chaos already being spread throughout the NHS by the government’s brutal spending freeze on the NHS, as part of George Osborne’s ill-conceived “austerity measures” – and by the disastrous and disruptive “reform” of the NHS forced through in 2012 by Andrew Lansley.

“Hospitals and mental health services are already struggling to cope – even before any major cash-driven cuts are imposed. The below inflation pay awards for NHS staff for the last 5 years have slashed the value of nurses’ pay and other health staff by 16% or more in real terms, and training programmes have been axed, making it ever more difficult to retain or recruit staff, and forcing up the bill for agency staff.

“It’s patently obvious to anyone but George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt that the NHS stands no chance of delivering the absurd target of £22 billion in savings by 2020. Instead trusts have been plunged into soaring deficits, with no relief in sight.

“UNISON is demanding ministers heed these warning signs of crisis taking shape, drop their plans to reduce NHS spending as share of national wealth, and instead bring forward urgently half of the extra £8 billion they promised for the NHS by 2020.”

Click here to view the Eastern Eye report “The East is (in the ) Red,”

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