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 The scale of the growing financial problems in the NHS in England will become clearer later, when the latest accounts are published.

Regulators are expected to reveal a large deficit has already emerged among NHS trusts in the first three months of the 2015-16 financial year.

The figures will cover hospital, mental health, ambulance and some community services.

They account for about two-thirds of the NHS's £116bn budget.

Last year, NHS trusts overspent by £820m - with the NHS as a whole balancing the books only after a cash injection from the Treasury and by raiding the capital budget earmarked for buildings.

It has been suggested the deficit among the 255 NHS trusts could top £2bn this year, and the figures released by the two regulators - Monitor and the Trust Development Authority - will give the first indication of whether that level of deficit is looking likely.

They have already been delayed several times - the financial year is half-way through yet these only cover the first three months of 2015-16.

It is already known that the regulators are concerned about the financial picture - they wrote to trusts in the summer, urging them to see where they could make more savings.

However, most experts believe the NHS has little wriggle room to improve its performance.

Prof John Appleby, chief economist of the King's Fund think tank, said: "These figures will show us just how challenging this year will be.

"We fully expect it to be worse than last year."
Do deficits matter?

It is easy to be blase about NHS deficits and think the money will always be found to bail out the health service.

That is the case - but only to a certain extent.

While there are a number of trusts that have been overspending for years and have been kept afloat by the wider system, the support is not endless.

Three years ago, South London Healthcare, which ran three hospitals, was allowed to go under after racking up large deficits.

However, the problem this year goes beyond individual NHS trusts and to the very heart of government.

A deficit on the scale of £2bn among trusts will make it incredibly difficult for the Department of Health to balance the books overall.

If that happens, it will have to go cap in hand to the Treasury. For a service that is being protected from cuts to have to do this raises some very difficult questions all round.