NHS struggling to meet tough finance targets

Hospital ward
Hospital ward

NHS trusts are facing an uphill struggle to meet tough financial targets after being hit with the rising costs of caring for patients during a busy winter.

Opening extra wards and hiring agency staff to cope with winter demand are among the pressures facing cash-strapped hospitals.

And fears have been raised that they are being plunged even further into the red after losing out on millions of pounds in NHS funding linked to strict performance targets.

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust is forecasting a £45.2m deficit at the end of the year, £15.4m worse than planned. Its director of finance Gary Boothby said the trust had to prioritise the provision of safe care for its patients while trying to reduce spending.

He said: “Alongside our already stretching financial efficiency targets, we are in one of the most difficult winters ever experienced in the NHS which has meant extra wards and extra staff to cover them have been needed to cope with the high numbers of very poorly patients.”

Last month it emerged that millions of pounds was being spent opening extra hospital beds to cope with demand even before the busy winter period started.

The health service spent more than £5.5m providing “escalation beds” at Yorkshire NHS trusts between March and September last year.

Norovirus and winter-related illnesses are partly behind the strain on NHS services.

More than 800 hospital beds in England were closed per day by the winter vomiting bug in the week to February 11, latest figures show.

Warnings have been made over bed occupancy levels at 95 per cent, above the recommended 85 per cent safe level.

Unions and doctors’ leaders have called for a funding boost.

The government has said it supported the NHS this winter with £437m of additional funding and allocated an extra £2.8bn to the health service over the next two years.