How many NHS trusts are in deficit?

Published: 9th Dec 2016

In brief


98% of NHS trusts are in deficit.


This was roughly correct for acute trusts in the third quarter of 2015/16. But by the end of 2015/16 it was 65% of all NHS trusts, of which 75% were acute trusts (hospitals).

“It was 98% of [NHS] trusts in deficit, I forget the exact number.”

BBC Question Time audience member, 8 December 2016

In the third quarter of 2015/16 around 95% of acute (hospital) trusts and 75% of all NHS trusts in England were in deficit.

But by the end of 2015/16 65% of all NHS trusts were in deficit and more than 75% of these trusts in deficit were acute trusts. We’ve not been able to find an exact figure for this, but that would suggest over 85% of acute trusts were in deficit at the end of the year.

Of 240 NHS trusts and foundation trusts, 157 were found to be in deficit in 2015/16.

Over the last few years mental health, ambulance, specialist and community trusts haven’t been in deficit, but the King’s Fund, a health think tank, suggests that this has led to a variation in care and service access.

David Williams, the Director General of Finance in the Department of Health, told a committee of MPs that in 2015/16 that being an NHS organisation in deficit became the norm.

The overall deficit of NHS trusts and foundation trusts at the end of the year was £2.45 billion.

What’s the situation now?

This year trusts are on track to have a lower deficit than they did last year, according to the House of Commons Library.

Around 72% of acute trusts were in deficit and 60% of all trusts by the end of September 2016. The deficit was at £648 million.

The aim for 2016/17 is to bring the overall deficit down to £250 million. NHS Improvement has estimated that this is more likely to be around £580 million, although other estimates put the figure higher.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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