THE financial crisis facing the North of Ireland’s Health Trusts is so severe that four out of five Trusts have failed to break even in both 2013 and 2014, a new report released yesterday has shown.
In the report, Auditor General Kieran Donnelly confirmed that the health and social care service was facing an ‘unprecedented financial challenge’.
The health trusts received £115m of additional funding in 2013 and 2014. However, only the Belfast trust broke even, as a result of the extra money it received. According to the auditor, previous additional funding has ‘masked’ rather than ‘addressed’ the problem.
The report concludes that the continued reliance on additional funding is ‘unrealistic’ and ‘unsustainable’. Pointing to the ageing population, the report warns that the health and social services sector is likely to face further funding cuts in the future while at the same time, demand for health services are rapidly rising.
The report states the service functioned: ‘In the face of rising inflationary cost pressures, demographic pressures from an increasing and ageing population and the pressures associated with new treatments and patient expectations while at the same time delivering a challenging programme of efficiency savings.’
While fraud was not identified by the report, £5.7m of ‘potentially inappropriate expenditure’ was found and this was ‘sufficient evidence to proceed with disciplinary action’. The report also raises the issues of failed cancer treatment targets and ‘tackling potential fraud’.
Hospitals failed to meet the 62-day target for cancer patients to start treatment. Overall, hospitals did not meet the target to ensure that 95% of patients began their first cancer treatment within 62 days, following an urgent GP referral in any month during the two-year period to 31 March 2014.
In the period under review, 446 negligence claims were settled costing more than £81m while the cost of 3,000 outstanding claims has been estimated at approximately £121m.