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King's Fund: NHS finance strains continue

King's Fund: NHS finance strains continue

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"Worrying inconsistencies" have been revealed in the plans of hospitals and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), a new report shows. 

The latest finance report from healthcare thinktank The King's Fund shows that while 55% of CCGs are planning to reduce emergency admissions, less than 8% of NHS trust finance directors are planning to do so. 

CCGs are also forecasting less elective activity, with only a third (32%) expecting an increase in planned treatment, compared to 69% of trust finance directors. 

Analysis of data collected for the report shows that the nursing workforce increased by almost 9,000 over the past six months - the highest on record. 

Many hospitals are choosing to recruit more nurses despite having extremely stretched budgets. 

The report warns that cracks are beginning to appear in NHS performance as a result of the growing financial pressures and rising demand for services. 

Although the A&E waiting time target was met over the quarter once all types of unit are included, hospitals with major A&E departments have now missed the target for 51 weeks in a row. 

And more than three million people had been waiting at least 18 weeks for hospital treatment at the end of the quarter, the highest number since 2008.

John Appleby, chief economist at The King's Fund, said: "Our latest quarterly report paints a picture of a service under huge pressure, with cracks beginning to appear in NHS performance. It once again underlines the need for new funding if services are to be maintained. 

"The increase in the nursing workforce signals a very welcome commitment to improving care, although it remains to be seen whether hospitals will be able to sustain current staffing levels when money becomes tighter later in the year. The disparity in the plans of providers and commissioners points to a worrying mismatch between activity and funding, which could have serious financial consequences."

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