Quarterly performance of the NHS provider sector: quarter 1 2017/18

It is still early in the financial year, however the latest financial results show that providers' financial position is improving.

For the second year in a row, the NHS provider sector is broadly achieving its financial plan for the year at the end of quarter one (Q1). This strong performance builds on the financial resilience demonstrated in 2016/17 when, despite the exceptional unplanned demand for hospital-based care, the sector bucked the trend of recent years and made a £1.7 billion financial improvement. Underlying this improvement in the reported financial position was the delivery of £2.3 billion of recurrent cost savings, and a further £0.8 billion of non-recurrent savings.

Quarter 1 2017/18 performance report PDF, 1.5 MB

Read the full performance report.

What our findings tell us

Operationally, the position is still extremely challenging. The number of elective patients waiting for NHS treatment in England has exceeded 3.6 million for the first time since the waiting time target was introduced in August 2007. Historically this was due to demand for treatment exceeding the capacity available but in recent months GP referrals have started to reduce. 

The increase in occupancy is in part a result of increased emergency pressure, where the sector has seen a 3.81% increase in emergency admissions via A&E compared to the same period last year. There has also been a lack of progress in reducing delayed discharges. Since the government announced £1 billion investment for adult social care in March 2017, the level of delayed transfers of care has increased. To address this, it will be essential for local health and care systems to work together to ensure sufficient beds are available so that patients can continue to rely on safe, high quality care over the busy winter period.

Despite this, data shows that A&E performance of 90.29% at quarter 1 has met the national ambition of delivering 90% by September 2017.  

We have also continued to see a significant reduction in agency expenditure in the first quarter and, for the first time in recent years, providers have reported an underspend against their plan on agency usage.

Financially, providers have made a very strong start to the year, and should be applauded for this. There are lots of risks ahead in terms of the sector’s finances, but the results from the first quarter are very encouraging, and demonstrate that the majority of trusts are sticking to, or ahead of, their financial plans. 

Jim Mackey, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement

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