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Hospital Finances Set to Worsen, U.K. Spending Watchdog Says

  • NHS hospital trusts saw deficit reach $1.3 billion in 2014-15
  • Audit Office says poor finances seen as `least-worst option'

The finances of the bodies that manage state-run hospitals in England have worsened “significantly” in the past year and are set to deteriorate further, the U.K. government’s spending watchdog said.

National Health Service hospital trusts had a combined 843 million-pound ($1.28 billion) deficit in the financial year ending in March 2015, compared with 91 million pounds a year earlier, the National Audit Office said in a report published Wednesday. Nearly half of the trusts, which may manage more than one hospital as well as providing other health-care services, were in the red. More than three-quarters reported a shortfall in the first half of 2015-16.

While Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has committed to giving the NHS more money, it’s not clear there’s a coherent plan to “get trusts’ finances back on track and to close their estimated 22 billion-pound gap between resources and patients’ needs by 2020-21,” the NAO said in an e-mailed statement. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland operate their own health services.

“Running a deficit seems to be becoming normal practice,” NAO Comptroller and Auditor General Amyas Morse said in the statement. “There is a risk that poor financial performance is seen as the least-worst option compared with poor health-care provision.”

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