Lincolnshire NHS trusts under fire for ‘unsustainable’ deficits

The government’s spending watchdog has warned of an unsustainable financial culture at NHS trusts such as those in Lincolnshire, which have racked up significant deficits.

A National Audit Office report released on Wednesday, December 16, confirmed that trusts nationwide are expected to overspend by more than £2.2 billion this year.

The deterioration in the financial position of NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts has been severe and worse than expected, with their £843 million deficit in 2014-15 representing a sharp decline from the £91 million deficit reported in 2013-14.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is facing a projected £40.3 million shortfall in this time, although early predictions warned of a £75 million deficit by the start of April.

The trust recorded a deficit of £21.6m for the first three months of the financial year between April and June, £7.825 million worse than the planned figures.

Pay expenditure on staffing at the trust was £102.132 million, £5.934 million over the budget.

A total of £5,369,245 was paid out to agency doctors alone – with Lincoln County Hospital accounting for the majority of the spend.

The trust in charge of emergency services for Lincolnshire and the rest of the East Midlands has also amassed a substantially higher than predicted deficit so far this year.

EMAS reported a deficit of £8.74million for the financial year to date at its board meeting on December 15.

The current deficit is more than £8 million greater than predicted and is now being closely monitored by the regulator, NHS Trust Development Authority.

EMAS has also promised to look at ways to address the “unacceptable financial position” while maintaining its patient care.

Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office, said the position was unsustainable, with too many trusts relying on running a deficit.

“Running a deficit seems to be becoming normal practice for acute trusts. There is a risk that poor financial performance is seen as the least worst option compared with poor healthcare provision.

“Continued demand for healthcare services means that the pressure on acute trusts will not go away. Until there is a clear pathway for trusts to get back to financial stability, we cannot be confident that value for money will be achieved.”