The NHS needs to save £22bn to close the gap between resources and patient needs © 123RF
The NHS needs to save £22bn to close the gap between resources and patient needs © 123RF

MPs and health professionals 'not confident' in NHS savings plan

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
19 July 2016

More than eight in 10 healthcare professionals are not confident the NHS can achieve a £22bn savings target, according to a survey.

The poll of more than 400 people found 85% were either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” the health service can hit the target by 2020.

The results come as MPs cast doubt on government NHS funding commitments and the achievability of the “efficiency challenge”, where £22bn needs to be saved by 2020-21 to close the gap between resources and patient needs.

The survey, carried out ahead of the UK Health Show conference in September, found just one in 10 respondents were at least “fairly confident” that recommendations in Lord Carter’s review, which include procurement improvements, would be achieved.

More than four in five respondents rated current NHS performance positively, though 56% were pessimistic about the future and a third disagreed that commissioning of services was carried out efficiently and effectively. More than a quarter expect commissioning to get worse.

Meanwhile, the Health Committee has said the government’s 2015 Spending Review claim that the NHS will receive an additional £10bn above inflation by 2020-21 is inaccurate and that spending will actually increase between 2015-16 and 2020-21 by £4.5bn. This is mainly due to reductions in spending on health by other organisations such as local authorities.

The committee said strategies to reduce costs, such as lowering the tariff hospitals charge for treatments and the agency staff spending cap, were not sustainable.

“The conclusion we draw from the evidence we have heard is that the proposed strategies for reducing costs – cutting the tariff price (albeit at a lower rate), strict pay restraint, imposing agency price caps and reducing capital spending – are not sustainable ways of securing long-term efficiencies,” said the report. “The NHS will need a new approach if it is to adapt to increasing patient demand and funding constraints.”

MPs said they heard “mixed views” on the potential effectiveness of Lord Carter’s recommendations, which he claimed could produce £5bn savings a year, including £1bn through better procurement and reducing variation between trusts.

“We heard mixed views on whether addressing unwarranted variation can realise sufficient efficiency savings but we are hopeful about what might be achieved with the engagement of providers and clinicians,” said the report.

It added: “Given the scale of rising demand and costs, we are not confident that the efficiency challenge is achievable. We are concerned about the failure to plan for the consequences if the current plan for savings is not achieved.”

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