Hospitals in the East face £441m deficit

Addenbrooke's Hospital Image copyright PA
Image caption The biggest deficit is faced by the Cambridge University Trust, which runs Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, with a predicted shortfall of £47.9m in 2015-16

The deficit facing hospitals in the east of England has increased by 70% in a year to £441m, the BBC can reveal.

The biggest deficit is faced by the trust that runs Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, with a predicted shortfall of £47.9m in 2015-16.

In 2014-15 four of the 22 trusts in the East still had surpluses, but now only one - Luton and Dunstable - is predicted to break even.

The East's trusts had a £259m deficit in 2014-15, up from £159m in 2013-14.

Highest hospital trust deficits in East of England Predicted 2015-16 deficits Deficits for 2014-15
Cambridge University Hospitals (includes Addenbrooke's) £47.9m £8.3m
Colchester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £39.4m £22.3m
Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £38.8m £38.5m
Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust (includes Broomfield Hospital) £38.3m £33.4m
Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust (Harlow) £38m £18.8m

John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund - which describes itself as an English health charity that shapes health and social care policy - said hospitals could not continue seeing year-on-year increases of 70%.

"It simply can't carry on. Trusts are in a pincer between higher demand (with more elderly people being treated, for example), higher costs and a squeezed income," he said.

"Quite what the implications for patients services are is difficult to say."

Image caption Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Trust had a deficit of £38.8m

Mr Appleby said he had spoken to NHS managers who said they could cut spending, but only by damaging patient care.

He said, nationally, a recent King's Fund survey of 83 trusts found that nine out of 10 hospitals were forecasting a deficit.

Mr Appleby said it was "touch and go" whether the Department of Health would be able to balance its books.

De Montfort University professor Rob Baggott, author of Health and Health Care in Britain, said the government could save huge amounts of money through health campaigns to cut obesity and smoking, but public health was now the responsibility of councils.

"The government is cutting the public health budget, which is madness," he said.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption John Appleby said it was "touch and go" whether the Department of Health would be able to balance its books

A Cambridge University Hospitals spokesman said: "We are projecting a deficit but we are working hard to reduce this.

"We have a much better grip of our financial situation, for example we have completely cut out spend on expensive agency staff and invested in permanent staff."

Sheila Budd, the acting director of finance at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which is facing a £10.3m deficit, said: "We, along with many trusts, face an extremely challenging financial climate and will need to make significant savings next year."

The Department of Health said: "We know finances are challenging, but this government is committed to the NHS and its values, which is why we're investing £10bn to fund its own plan for the future - including nearly £4bn next year."

The BBC survey of trusts covered Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Suffolk.

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