£1.2bn deficit nationally, but surplus for Northumberland and North Tyneside's hospitals

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The NHS trust running hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside currently has a surplus of almost £16million, against a stark national backdrop of a £1.2billion deficit.

The financial position of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust at the end of October was an adjusted surplus of £15.8million. This is in line with its revised plan for a £25.1million surplus by the end of 2018-19.

But on the same day as the trust’s latest board meeting, last Thursday, NHS Improvement released its national report on the performance of the provider sector (hospital, mental health, community and ambulance trusts) for quarter two of 2018-19.

This revealed that the sector was £1.23billion in deficit at the end of September, six months into the financial year, which puts the Northumbria Healthcare figures in a very favourable light.

At the end of the year, the sector forecasts a deficit of £558million.

The figures for July to September also show that hospitals nationally admitted nearly 1,000 more emergency patients a day than in the same period last year, treating 5.52million patients within the four-hour target.

Hospitals have been able to discharge more patients from their services sooner, including reducing the number of beds occupied by patients who have been there for more than three weeks (classed as a long-stay patients), freeing up the equivalent of 2,470 beds in time for winter.

However, these achievements come as, on top of the deficit, waiting times for planned treatment, such as routine non-urgent operations, have increased and vacancies for doctors and nurses still stand at more than 100,000 despite some improvements.

Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, said: “The NHS is working flat out to ensure record numbers of patients get the care they need. Front-line staff and managers deserve tremendous praise for their heroism.

“But this achievement continues to come at a cost with performance targets not being met nationally and hospitals being unable to balance their books to cover the increased demand on their services.

“The Long Term Plan is our opportunity to fundamentally redesign how the NHS works so that it can continue to provide high-quality care for patients.”

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, the sector’s membership organisation, added: “Once again, trusts have delivered a heroic performance, treating more patients than ever before within the A&E target, improving discharge rates and continuing to deliver stretching levels of financial savings.

“But the reality is that, however hard trusts work, they cannot currently keep up with the growth in demand for care.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service