NHS trusts across Britain are heading into winter on a financial knife-edge, a top think tank is warning.
In a survey by the King’s Fund health charity, 51 per cent of trust financial directors reported that patient care has worsened over the last year — caused by the government’s financial squeeze
The poll found that only 89.7 per cent of A&E patients were seen within four hours in September compared with 90.6 per cent in September last year.
It also found that 89.4 per cent of patients waiting for treatment in August had been waiting up to 18 weeks, compared with 90.9 per cent in August 2016.
The fund said a record 4.1 million people are now waiting for treatment.
Only 45 per cent of NHS trusts predicted they would meet this year’s financial targets.
King’s Fund chief analyst Siva Anandaciva described the finance directors’ reports as “sobering” as it suggests NHS funding pressures are having “a real impact.”
He said: “This is happening despite the Herculean efforts of staff and NHS leaders working to maintain standards of care under huge pressure.”
Eddie Saville, chief executive of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association doctors’ union, said the findings will add to the deepening concern among hospital doctors about a real-terms decline in NHS pay and extra “efficiencies.”
He said: “Finance directors are the people tasked with making the sums add up at a local level, so it is revealing that a growing number report declining standards of care amid the efficiencies already being demanded to meet their targets.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “For senior hospital bosses to say patient care has deteriorated is a damning indictment of Theresa May’s hapless approach to the NHS.
“We’ve had seven years of underfunding and next year head-for-head money will be falling in the NHS. The warning from the King’s Fund that ‘the NHS is heading into winter on a knife edge’ should set alarm bells ringing.
“These warnings should be taken seriously by the Chancellor. The test of the Budget will be whether the NHS is finally given the funding package it needs. Anything less will mean more misery for patients.”
In a separate skills study at the Royal Wolverhampton Hospital NHS Trust by its chief nurse Cheryl Etches she found the trust is reducing its number of full-time registered nurses and replacing them with associate nurses, who are not fully qualified.
This is despite government guarantees the newly created supporting role of associate nurses, created in 2015 to address staffing shortfalls, would not replace registered nurses.