The latest NHS quarterly financial performance report, published today (Tuesday 20 February, 2007) shows that almost half of England's primary care trusts (PCTs) are forecast to be in deficit at the end of this financial year.
Responding to the report, Mr James Johnson, Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), says:
"Yesterday, the prime minister was talking about hospitals operating around the clock. How is the NHS supposed to achieve that when so many PCTs – which pay for the operations – are in the red? In the light of the financial realities facing the NHS, politicians' promises seem somewhat hollow. Hospitals are fighting hard to be able to maintain current levels of care, let alone being able to make more cuts to waiting times. There's a major risk of highly qualified doctors and nurses – trained at the taxpayers' expense – being forced to find work overseas, because the NHS can no longer afford to employ them."
The BMA is concerned that trusts are seeking to save money by cutting funding for training and public health.
Dr Jo Hilborne, Chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, adds:
"Training and education are increasingly being targeted for NHS cuts. Across the country doctors are being told that they can't go on essential courses because their trusts can't afford it. If they carry on adopting this short-sighted approach, there's a risk of long-term compromise to patient care."