Health providers say the gap in funding and rising inflation will force them to either have short staff, prolong waiting times for care or cut back patient care from other areas.
UK hospital bosses have 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 the medical journal BMJ on Wednesday said they expected bills to at least double, as the price hikes kicked in.
The National Health Service Confederation (NHS), 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 percent with dire predictions that rates could climb to 18 percent or more next year.
Other affected categories
Last week households were told that their gas and electricity bills would go up by 80 percent 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 $756,000 a month in January and February next year.
At the same time last year, it was about $405,322
Sheffield Children’s Hospital in northern England has anticipated a rise of nearly 130 percent in its total bill for 2022-23.
But Nottingham University Hospital in central England has budgeted for a 214-percent rise in gas and electricity this year, it added.
NHS England set aside $1.7 billion to cover an expected $560-million increase in energy bills. But the estimate was made in May and prices have risen again, prompting concern it may not be enough.
Health service near ‘breaking point’
The NHS, created in 1948 to provide free healthcare and paid out of general taxation, is a cherished British institution.
But the system, which costs $220 billion a year to run and employs some 1.2 million people in England alone, has long faced significant under-funding.
Deighton’s boss, chief executive Matthew Taylor, told The Guardian this week that the NHS was “in its worst state in living memory”.
One experienced A&E doctor wrote on the UnHerd website this month that the service was “at breaking point”, with patients at risk.
Health experts say the crisis is decades in the making but has been exacerbated by squeezed budgets over the last 12 years of the Conservative government, Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.