Advising with empathy and experience

Soaring NHS deficits.

NHS trusts in England created a £930m deficit in the first three months of the financial year - more than the entire 2014-2015 over spend.

Eight in 10 trusts are in the red with overspent accounts covering hospital, mental health, ambulance and some community services. Combined they account for about two-thirds of the NHS's £116bn budget - with the rest going on GPs, drug prescribing and training.

Latest figures show that the number waiting for non-emergency operations, such as knee and hip replacements, is 3.3 million - the highest level since early 2008; the 62-day cancer waiting time target has been missed for the past 16 months and the four-hour A&E target has been missed for 11 of the past 12 months

Last year, NHS trusts overspent by £822m - with the health service as a whole balancing the books only after a cash injection from the Treasury and by accessing the capital budget earmarked for buildings. It has been suggested the deficit among the 237 NHS trusts could top £2bn in 2015-2016.

However figures released by the two regulators - Monitor and the Trust Development Authority - show the NHS is on track as spending pressures tend to ease late in the financial year.

Even so, trusts - particularly hospitals - are under pressure from regulators to make savings but the accounts also show that rising demands each year have  gradually been making it harder for trusts to break even.

Monitor chief executive, David Bennett, said: "The NHS can no longer afford operationally and financially to operate as it has and must act now to deliver the substantial efficiency gains required."

Chancellor George Osborne said: "More than £2bn extra is going into our health service this year. Clearly the NHS has to spend that money well and deal with things like rip-off nursing agencies and management consultancies that charge too much."

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust think-tank, said: "It is becoming increasingly impossible to provide quality standards, timely access to care and financial control at the same time."

NHS Confederation  senior policy adviser, Paul Healy, said: "Hospitals and other front-line organisations have all-but exhausted their options for becoming more efficient."

He said it was important that the extra money being promised to the NHS this Parliament was arranged so that most of it came in the first few years.