• Planning guidance says trusts will be allowed to miss targets if due to “exceptional” reasons
  • But they will need to be back on track by 2017-18
  • Permission will only be granted in “exceptional circumstances”

Trusts will be allowed to miss performance targets this year if it was a result of “exceptional circumstances outside [their] control” and they are back on track in 2017-18, the latest NHS planning guidance says.

The 2017–2019 NHS operational planning and contracting guidance says “the baseline for 2017-18 trajectores” - which set out how trusts’ performance is expected to improve - will be the same as those agreed for the current financial year.

But it adds: “If a provider does not deliver its performance trajectory during 2016–17 as a result of exceptional circumstances outside of its control, it can use the appeals process to NHS England and NHS Improvement and, if successful, NHS England and NHS Improvement may jointly agree to adjust its trajectory.”

The document says permission will only be granted in “rare” circumstances. And, regardless of performance this year, all providers will be expected to achieve “[all] the national standards during 2017-18”.

The decision to grant the new flexibility follows the “reset” document released in July stating providers would only be able to access bailout funding if they hit the finance and performance targets specifically set out for every trust.

Trusts are entitled to 70 per cent of their share of the £1.8bn sustainability and transformation funding in 2016-17 if they hit financial targets, and 30 per cent for hitting performance targets for accident and emergency, referral to treatment and 62 day cancer waiting standards, the reset document said.