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Acute trusts achieve 80% of efficiencies despite “severe” deficits


16 December 2015

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Acute trusts are achieving more than 80% of their planned efficiencies, despite facing unexpectedly “severe” and “sharp” deficit increases, the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed.

Collectively, acute and foundation trusts now have a £843 million deficit, according to the NAO. This shows a deficit increase of £752 million in one year, as the 2013/14 deficit was £91 million.

Acute trusts are achieving more than 80% of their planned efficiencies, despite facing unexpectedly “severe” and “sharp” deficit increases, the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed.

Collectively, acute and foundation trusts now have a £843 million deficit, according to the NAO. This shows a deficit increase of £752 million in one year, as the 2013/14 deficit was £91 million.

However, the Department of Health and its arm’s-length bodies “risk creating perceived or actual competing priorities for trusts”, giving them conflicting goals, rather than assisting them, the Office said.

For example, they noted that the Department’s interventions to cut agency spending came at a time when acute trusts needed to recruit more nurses to meet safe staffing guidelines, and when the vacancy rate for permanent nursing staff was high, therefore could have created competing goals for trusts.

Despite the DH and it’s arms-length bodies taking steps to learn how trusts can reduce costs, “the wider use of this learning and how it will improve trusts’ finances overall” is not clear.

Similarly, it is “not yet clear that the Department of Health, NHS England, Monitor and the NHS TDA have the coherent plan that is needed to get trusts’ finances back on track and to close their estimated £22 billion gap between resources and patients’ needs by 2020-21,” the report read.

The audit office warned that making savings through the new models of care “will be challenging” as they “are relatively new and untested,” and that effective supervision by the Department will become harder if the number of trusts in “financial distress” rises any more.

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