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Hospitals in England see deficits grow as wage bills rise and earning capacity falls

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 22 February 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k870
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. London

NHS hospitals in England are facing ballooning deficits as they struggle to maintain quality of care for growing numbers of patients, show the latest quarterly statistics from NHS Improvement.1 At the end of 2017, hospitals reported a deficit of £1.28bn (€1.45bn; $1.8bn), £365m above the planned level.

The data cover the three months to 31 December, before the winter proper and a severe flu season that generated the highest number of flu related admissions to hospital since 2010-11. The flu peak was reached in January, so next quarter’s data, due to be published on 21 May, may bring worse news.

However, preparations for winter seem to have had some positive effect. Comparing year to year, emergency departments’ performance remained well below target but got no worse: 89.5% of patients were seen within the target of four hours, against 89.6% in the corresponding quarter last year. But December was a poor month, with only 85.1% seen within the target, one …

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