High energy prices threaten UK hospital services

LONDON: UK hospitals bosses on Thursday (Sep 1) warned that patient care may have to be cut to offset huge increases in energy bills over the winter months.

Most hospital groups contacted by medical journal the BMJ said they expected bills to at least double, as the price hikes kicked in.

The NHS Confederation, which represents health providers in the publicly funded National Health Service, said there would be a knock-on effect.

“The gap in funding from rising inflation will either have to be made up by fewer staff being employed, longer waiting times for care or other areas of patient care being cut back,” the group’s senior acute lead, Rory Deighton, told the BMJ.

“A failure to properly compensate the NHS for inflation will only heighten pressure on our health service as we move towards a winter that we know will be particularly challenging this year.”

UK inflation is at a 40-year high of 10.1 per cent with dire predictions that rates could climb to 18 per cent or more next year.

Last week households were told that their gas and electricity bills would go up by 80 per cent from October, with further rises set for next year.

But non-domestic customers are not covered by the energy price cap, making them more vulnerable to the surge in wholesale prices.

Businesses across the board have warned the huge increases could force many to close if the government does nothing to help.

The BMJ said bosses at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London told it that they expected an energy bill of about £650,000 a month in January and February next year.

At the same time last year, it was about £350,000.

Sheffield Children’s Hospital in northern England has anticipated a rise of nearly 130 per cent in its total bill for 2022 to 2023.

But Nottingham University Hospital in central England has budgeted for a 214 per cent rise in gas and electricity this year, it added.

NHS England set aside £1.5 billion to cover an expected £485 million increase in energy bills. But the estimate was made in May and prices have risen again, prompting concern it may not be enough.