Most NHS trusts continue to face significant operational and performance difficulties, ambitious control totals and serious workforce shortages. With the provider sector deficit forecast to be £558 million by the end of March, the Government’s call for all trusts to achieve financial balance in the mid-term is a big ask.
The challenges facing trusts were manifested in NHS Improvement’s Q2 performance figures, which showed 89% of acute trusts being in deficit (67% of all trusts). A&E visits were up 3.9% on the same period in 2017 and there were 103,000 vacancies in the provider sector.
The NHS plan presents a chance to reset the provider sector but only with adequate funding and realistic targets. Trusts are under pressure to work together to pool resources and expertise, gain economies of scale, meet efficiency targets, secure System Transformation Funding, and to collaborate more effectively within STPs and ICSs. As a result, we are seeing some ambitious reconfiguration programmes in leading ICSs from South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw to Greater Manchester to Dorset.