The full extent of the financial crisis faced by NHS hospitals across England has been revealed in a leaked document.
The document, revealed by the Labour Party, shows that two-thirds of hospitals are expected to be in deficit in the current financial year (2015/16).
An analysis of 98 NHS trusts shows a projected deficit this year of £759 million, three-times higher than 2014/15 and equivalent of £1.86 billion across all England’s 240 trusts.
Facing the prospect of a financial black-hole, many hospitals could be forced into making ‘recovery plans’ which include cutting staff, bed numbers and even ending some services.
Labour argues that the government’s inability to get to grips with NHS funding is as a direct result of £3bn wasted on top-down reorganisation of the health and social care system.
According to Labour, community services like social care and GP services were stripped-back under the Tory-led coalition and hospitals were overwhelmed with rising demand.
They also claim that nurse training has been cut, leading to ‘severe staff shortages and rising wasteful spending on agency staff’.
This has led to a growing crisis in A&E, claims Labour. More than one million patients had to wait over four hours for treatment last year and waiting lists for operations are at a seven-year high.
And one in four patients are waiting a week or more to see a GP.
A Freedom of Information request by Labour shows hospitals declaring significant “operational problems” on more than 1,000 occasions last winter.
Labour says their £2.5 billion ‘Time to Care Fund’ will improve NHS care by providing 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs.
They would also raise ‘significant resources’ for the NHS through a ‘mansion tax on properties over £2m, action on tax avoidance and a tobacco levy in their first Budget’.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Right now, our NHS is in grave danger because David Cameron has broken his promises on the NHS.
“He’s closed hospitals he said he would keep open, he’s allowed waiting times to rise when he said he would keep them low, and he’s wasted £3 billion on a top-down re-organisation which drives forward privatisation that he insisted before the last election would never happen.
“Now he’s at it again, promising to protect the NHS with just a flimsy IOU.
“And today we discover the financial bombshell that he has kept hidden from everyone until now. Two thirds of hospitals face having to make swingeing cuts, not some point in the future, but this year because of a cash crisis made in Downing Street.
“That will mean staff cut, beds lost and services closed. And it is why we need Labour’s better plan for the NHS: a fully funded plan to get more resources into the NHS and start turning things around; a real plan with real money for real action right now.”
Mr Miliband said Labour would put “the right values back at the heart of our NHS”, including “compassion and co-operation, not privatisation, fragmentation and competition”, which will mean “it will once again lead the world”.
Andy Burnham, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “David Cameron promised to cut the deficit, not the NHS. But we now know that, in reality, he has created a large deficit in the NHS.
“The financial crisis in the NHS is biting this year, with patients seeing treatments rationed, services closed and hospitals without enough staff.
“Labour’s first Budget will bring in a mansion tax to get the funds flowing into the NHS this year and next. The Tories’ extreme spending plans that will put the NHS at risk.”
He added: “Hospitals were forced to spend £1 billion on agency staff last year because of the shortage of nurses under David Cameron.
“Only Labour’s plan to recruit an extra 20,000 nurses – paid for with £2.5 billion extra a year – will allow hospitals to break the hold of the staffing agencies and get their finances into better shape.”