The NHS faces a funding crisis caused partly by a struggle to recruit staff.

NHS figures show there are 100,000 vacancies across the health service, including 31,000 across the Midlands and the east of England.

It means 9.3% of posts in the Midlands and the east (classed as one region in these NHS statistics), around one in 11, is unfilled.

Health trusts facing funding deficits include Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley. It was on course to spend £12.9 million more than planned in the financial year just ended.

The alarm was raised by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, which has published a report into NHS Financial Sustainability.

It said: “The top-level picture hides warnings signs that the NHS’s financial health is getting worse: increasing loans to support trusts in difficulty, raids on capital budgets to cover revenue shortfalls, and the growth in waiting lists and slippage in waiting times do not indicate a sustainable position.”

Committee members include Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood. The cross-party committee also includes Conservative, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs.

The NHS balanced its budget last year but the Committee’s report, based partly on an earlier inquiry by the National Audit Office, found that this masks huge differences in the financial performance of NHS trusts, including those managing hospitals, and clinical commissioning groups, which oversee spending across the country.

Some have gone over budget while others have under-spent. It means that while NHS spending overall appears to be in good shape, many individual trusts are facing serious difficulties.

 

A staff shortage, with 100,000 vacancies nationwide, is “the biggest challenge facing trusts” and “also one of the biggest threats to financial sustainability in the NHS”, the committee said. This is partly because of the cost of using temporary staff.

MPs said: “These staffing shortages present a major obstacle to the NHS’s financial viability and we remain concerned about how the NHS can suitably address these workforce shortages.

“Should the NHS continue to lose staff at the current rate, or fail to attract enough employees from overseas, then the situation will rapidly reach crisis point.”

"The NHS’s financial health is getting worse"

The most recent figures showing the financial position of individual trusts were published by the NHS in March.

They show that Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust was expected to spend £12.9 million more than planned in the most recent financial year, which ended on March 31.

Sandwell And West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs City Hospital in Birmingham, was set to spend £3.3 million more than planned.

Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust is expected to overspend by £14.4 million. And University Hospitals Coventry And Warwickshire NHS Trust is on course to spend £24 million more than planned.

By contrast University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs a number of Birmingham Hospitals including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, is expected to more or less hit its spending target, under-spending by £50,000.

 

Committee chair Meg Hillier said “Voices from the frontline came through loud and clear in our latest examination of NHS sustainability.

“As one hospital trust chief executive put it: ‘Staffing is the biggest challenge we face… it’s one of the biggest threats to financial sustainability in the NHS.’

“The Department of Health & Social Care and NHS bodies need to heed these voices and act now.

“Staff shortages are a clear threat to the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan and by July we expect to see evidence that Government has a plan to address them.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Putting the NHS back onto a sustainable financial footing is a key priority of the Long Term Plan and our historic five-year funding settlement of an extra £33.9bn a year by 2023/24 gives the health service the certainty it needs to deliver world-class care for patients.

“There are tens of thousands more doctors and nurses on our wards than in 2010 and thanks to their dedication, thousands of patients get excellent, safe care every day.

“The upcoming Workforce Implementation Plan will set out how we can ensure the NHS has the staff it needs for future years.”

In a new report, the Public Affairs Committee warned that the NHS will not be able to deliver on a “Long Term Plan” drawn designed to put its finances into shape unless it addresses staffing shortages.

 

Trust chief executives consider that staffing shortages in the NHS is the biggest challenge facing trusts and is one of the biggest threats to financial sustainability in the NHS, the MPs said, but there is little sign of the staffing shortfall improving.

And they said that demand for NHS treatment was growing rapidly, but the causes are not well understood.

The rise often put down to the fact that we are living longer lives, which means there are more elderly people in the population.

But in fact, this only explained about half of the increase, MPs said.

They said that wider socio-economic factors such as housing, employment, and changes to benefits and universal credit, have also been noted as contributing factors to demand.