NHS trusts smashed through their Tory-imposed spending limits by nearly £3 billion more than previously reported, research by the Nuffield Trust health charity showed yesterday.
Analysis of financial data published by NHS regulators found a staggering £3bn overspend at the end of 2016/17 compared to the £791 million reported.
The reported figure was “flattered by billions of pounds” because of one-off savings, a temporary cash boost and accountancy changes, said the charity.
It also warned that NHS providers face £2bn in unfunded inflation this year, £50m higher than was predicted.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the report “laid bare” the financial crisis facing the NHS which faces £22bn funding cuts by 2020.
Nuffield Trust spokeswoman Sally Gainsbury said: “The official figures on NHS deficits don’t reflect how severe things are for hospitals in England, as the deficits reported include one-off funding boosts or savings that cannot be repeated the following year.
“Only by looking at the deficit after these have been stripped out can we see the scale of the financial challenge facing the NHS – and it is eye-watering.”
But she said that wiping out the deficits was “entirely possible” and wouldn’t necessarily mean increasing healthcare spending as a proportion of Britain’s wealth.
“Our hospitals are undoubtedly in financial crisis. But the solution to that crisis is not beyond the reach of the public purse,” she said.
Mr Ashworth said the report painted a bleak picture for hospital finances in the coming years.
“These figures are a stark reminder that this Tory government is continuing to underfund our NHS, leaving hospital finances in a sorry state.
“Patients are paying the price of continued Tory underfunding of the NHS and, as Stephen Hawking pointed out, there is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that NHS funding and the numbers of doctors and nurses are inadequate – and it is getting worse,” he said.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said it did not recognise the claims made by the Nuffield Trust.
“We are investing record amounts in the NHS and as new expert analysis shows, spending on the NHS is in line with other European countries.”