News story

NHS foundation trusts holding up under pressure

NHS foundation trusts are performing well in providing quality services to patients in challenging economic times, according to Monitor.

The health sector regulator’s latest quarterly report for October to December 2013 shows foundation trusts are coping with winter pressures, as fewer missed the 4-hour accident and emergency waiting time target than at the same period last year (28 compared with 32).

Foundation trusts have also met performance standards for all 3 elective waiting time targets. However more trusts breached the targets than both last quarter and the same period last year. There has also been an increase in the number of trusts breaching the target for cancer patients to start treatment within 62 days of referral by a doctor.

Overall the 147 foundation trusts (two-thirds of all NHS hospitals) are continuing to make a surplus (£135 million so far this year). However, this is less than was planned (£173 million) for this stage of the financial year.

The number of trusts in deficit (39) is also more than expected (24), and almost double the same period last year (21). The combined deficit of these trusts (£180 million) was higher than expected (£168 million) but 60% is attributed to 5 organisations that are already subject to regulatory action by Monitor.

A further 17 trusts have very small deficits. Monitor’s analysis shows that the fall in value of the surpluses across all foundation trusts was more significant in eroding the sector’s overall financial performance than the growth in the size of the gross deficit.

The report also shows that foundation trusts have delivered efficiency savings of £867 million so far this year, although this is 18% (£185 million) behind what they planned at this stage.

Jason Dorsett, Financial Reporting Director at Monitor, said:

All trusts need to up their game in delivering efficiency savings this year in order to maintain and improve the quality of care for patients, and ensure the sustainability of services.

The foundation trust sector is doing remarkably well in tough circumstances but is looking a little frayed at the edges. Trusts have responded well to the challenge of A&E pressures this winter, such as finding beds to admit patients from A&E when there have been delays in discharging other patients.