NHS services face 'impossible' budget crisis, health trusts warn

Guardian staff
NHS Providers has warned that the health service ‘can no longer deliver what the NHS constitution requires of it’. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Frontline NHS services face “mission impossible” in meeting next year’s targets, health trusts have said.

Longer waiting lists for operations and delays at accident and emergency departments in England loom under the present financial constraints, said NHS Providers, a trade association that represents acute, ambulance, community and mental health services.

Chief executive Chris Hopson said the government needed to “sit up and listen”, the BBC reported. “NHS trusts will strain every sinew to deliver the commitments made for the health service. But we now have a body of evidence showing that, with resources available, the NHS can no longer deliver what the NHS constitution requires of it.

“We fear that patient safety is increasingly at risk.”

NHS Providers predicted its members would receive £89.1bn in funding in 2017-18, an annual rise of 2.6% but less than the 5.2% demand is expected to grow by.

It warned the number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E would increase by 40% next year to 1.8 million, and the number waiting more than 18 weeks for routine operations would rise 150% to about 100,000.

The NHS is already under strain in the wake of the Brexit vote. The number of EU nationals registering as nurses in England has dropped by 92% since the referendum in June, and a record number are quitting the NHS.

Only 96 nurses joined the NHS from other European nations in December 2016 – a drop from 1,304 in July, the month after the referendum.

The service is also facing a long-term failure to hire enough people. Applications for nursing courses plummeted by almost a quarter in a year after the government axed bursaries for trainees in 2016. Numbers fell by 9,990 to 33,810 in 12 months, according to figures released in February by the university admissions service Ucas. Meanwhile, one in three nurses is due to retire in the next 10 years and there are 24,000 nurse jobs unfilled, Royal College of Nursing figures show.

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