• Many trusts have savings plans and one-off transactions which have yet to take effect
  • Official forecasts suggest full year deficit of £523m
  • But a number of trusts are preparing to revise their forecasts

NHS trusts have reported a deficit of £736m for the first three months of 2017-18, £30m worse than planned.

If this performance continued, trusts would significantly breach the full year deficit target.

But many providers have savings plans and one-off transactions which have yet to take effect, while most of the £1.8bn “sustainability and transformation fund” will not be received until the later quarters. Both these factors will significantly improve the position.

Official forecast figures published today by NHS Improvement suggest a full year deficit of £523m - against a target of £496m. This compares to the final reported deficit for 2016-17 of £791m.

However, HSJ is aware of a number of trusts whose official forecasts will become significantly less optimistic in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the underlying positions at quarter one suggest a slight deterioration on last year.

Trusts are judged on their performance prior to STF income, which is non-recurrent and in 2017-18 will also be phased differently to last year.

After discounting this income the sector was in deficit by just over £1bn after the first three months of 2017-18, which compares with £911m last year.

At this stage last year, the sector’s overall position was £5m better than planned, but by year end it was £211m worse than planned.

NHSI felt that much of this deterioration was due to winter pressures, and chief executive Jim Mackey has called for urgent action to ensure adequate bed capacity this year.

Mr Mackey said the figures showed a “very strong start” to the year, but acknowledged there are “lots of risks ahead”.

Earlier this week the Nuffield Trust published a report which analysed the size of the underlying deficit, which it estimates to have been £3.7bn last year. The think tank has warned that providers are still likely to be struggling with huge underlying deficits in 2021 unless additional revenue funding is provided.