NHS trust leaders braced for another tough year

28 March 2024

Commenting on the publication of the delayed planning guidance by NHS England which sets out the NHS' priorities for the next financial year, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:

Trust leaders are bracing themselves for another incredibly tough year.

"With new figures this week showing public satisfaction with the NHS at an all-time low, this planning guidance serves as a stark reminder of a health service grappling with long waits for care, severely constrained finances, and ongoing workforce shortages.

"Despite additional investment in the NHS, it is deeply worrying that many hospital, ambulance, community and mental health services are expecting to start the next financial year in a precarious condition.

"The productivity ask of trusts is understandably demanding given this strain on public finances, but leaders across the provider sector are up for this challenge and are already doing everything they can to boost productivity.

"But they need more support to deliver everything being asked of them. They know that capital investment in NHS infrastructure and additional investment in social care capacity, for example, would turbo-boost their productivity efforts.

"The performance targets they've been set are equally stretching. While significant progress has been made in tackling the longest waits for care, trust leaders know much more needs to be done to drive down waiting times and improve care across urgent and emergency care and across community and mental health services.

"None of this can be achieved without highly valued NHS staff, though.

"Trust leaders know they cannot simply ask their overstretched workforce, who are already working flat out, to do more. They understandably want clarity on funding for the long-term workforce plan beyond what has been allocated, and an acknowledgement that while stringent targets to reduce agency spending are needed, this will be difficult to achieve given high vacancy rates, worrying levels of staff burnout and sickness, and the potential for more strike action.

"They will also want reassurances that the benefits of working with partners across health and social care system remain a priority within the NHS. Given the drive to boost productivity and deliver better care for patients, it is vital that trust leaders are able to pull every lever at their disposal to deliver on the tough targets they've been set."