The Department of Health last night named 17 NHS hospital trusts across England which are mired in debts worth hundreds of millions of pounds and cannot survive without a fundamental reorganisation.
David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, said 12 were not creditworthy enough to be lent money from government funds to cover an accumulated deficit at the end of the financial year last month. Five were permitted to take out loans, but acknowledged they could be repaid only over “a very extended timescale”.
His announcement was the first official confirmation of a Guardian inquiry in December which found at least a dozen trusts were technically bankrupt, with no prospect of repaying debts.
An increasing number of patients are contracting the deadly Clostridium difficile infection in English hospitals, according to the Health Protection Agency’s latest figures.
The agency said 55,681 cases were reported among patients aged 65 years and over in 2006, representing an increase of 8 per cent in a year.
The agency said that despite high rates infection across England, there were signs that rates of C. difficile were “slowing down”, as compared to the 17 per cent increase in reported cases between 2004 and 2005.
The latest MRSA bloodstream infection figures, also out today, show that there were 1,542 cases reported in England from October 2006 to December 2006, down 7 per cent on the previous quarter (July 2006 to September 2006), when there were 1,652 reported cases of bloodstream infections caused by MRSA.
The NHS workforce has fallen by around 17,000 people in one year, according to a snapshot of staffing levels released today.
The number of people working in the NHS fell by around 17,000 between September 2005 and September 2006, the Information Centre for Health and Social Care (ICHSC) said.
This equates to 8,118 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, when all the people working part-time are taken into account.
The government defended the “small” drop in staffing, in the face of criticism from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats over what they called the “appalling mismanagement” of the health service.
Analysis of the figures shows a drop of 5,826 in the number of qualified nurses working in the NHS between 2005 and 2006. However, this figure includes 3,370 duplicate entries for 2006, leaving an actual fall of 2,456.
Equally, there were 18,342 fewer support workers for clinical staff, with a duplicate entry number of 2,719, leaving an actual drop of 15,243, according to the Department of Health.
The number of people who own a second property in the UK is set to double by 2010 as more people cash in on the demand for rental property, according to a new survey.
Market research firm Mintel found that 3% of all homeowners are thinking of buying another property to let to tenants in the next two to three years, which would take the number of private landlords to two million.
Ministers have been accused of failing to combat street crime after it was disclosed that robbery levels have increased for the seventh consecutive time.
The number of robberies recorded by police jumped 8% to 26,600 in the final quarter of last year. The figure had fallen to as low as 21,200 at the end of 2004.
It was the seventh quarter in a row to show a period-on-period increase, and the first time robbery levels had topped 26,000 since April-June 2003.
Total violent crime in England and Wales was down 1%, but drugs offences rose 3%.
The British Crime Survey (BCS), which questions tens of thousands of people about their experiences of crime, also found more people were concerned about anti-social behaviour.
The prospect of a rise in interest rates has been upgraded to “imminent” after inflation reached 3.1% in March, more than 1% above the government’s target.
Industry experts say homeowners should brace themselves for a minimum 0.25% rise in the Bank of England base rate next month, which is currently pegged at 5.25%. This would represent the fourth rise of its kind since August last year.
Andrew Montlake, partner at mortgage broker Cobalt Capital, said: “A quarter point rise is almost a dead cert for May, but it could be as high as 0.5%.
Care for the elderly is in crisis and the system will be unable to cope with increasing demands of an ageing population, campaigners warn.
The Caring Choices coalition – a group of campaign organisations – has warned that one in five people in the UK will develop long-term care needs, and claims the current method of providing for the elderly is not sustainable.
The charities say there is not enough cash being invested in the service and not enough is being directed towards preventative care.
The King’s Fund, Help the Aged, Age Concern and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation are leading a group of 15 organisations which are hosting debates around the UK to highlight what they see as failings and to challenge government and providers to search for solutions.