NHS trusts in England have been told by regulators to reassess their financial plans, as their current strategies are unaffordable.
The hospital regulator, Monitor, has said that it has written to 46 foundation trusts with the biggest deficits “challenging” their plans and calling on them to introduce money-saving measures such as filling only essential staff vacancies.
The chief executive of Monitor, David Bennett, has said that the NHS is facing an almost unprecedented financial challenge this year.
“We are already reviewing and challenging the plans of the 46 foundation trusts with the biggest deficits,” he wrote in a letter to trusts.
“However, it is clear that this process will not close the funding gap and so we need all providers – even those planning for a surplus this year – to look again at their plans to see what more can be done.”
Earlier this year, NHS trusts in England reported in their total deficit of £822m in 2014-15, a massive increase when compared to the previous year’s figure of £115m.
It is believed that a big rise in spending on agency nurses contributed to the deficits and it has been estimated by Monitor that figures may be even worse this year.
Dr Mark Porter, the British Medical Association’s council chair, warned services could suffer.
“If trusts are to face an even greater squeeze on funding and staff then the only way to increase consultant presence across seven days is to reduce the number of senior doctors providing elective care during the week,” said Dr Mark Porter.
“If this is what the Government aims to do as part of making the NHS a truly seven-day service then it should be honest with patients and doctors and say so.”