By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Inefficiencies in the NHS is costing five billions pounds a year. Patients staying in hospital too long, reliance on agency workers, costly supplies and inefficient use of staff is making a huge strain on the public purse. Two official reports have published these findings.
8,500 “bedblocking” patients are stuck in NHS hospitals on a daily basis – costing £900m a year and increasing the need to use the private sector to meet patients’ needs.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, ordered an inquiry into the productivity of the NHS and its use of resources, which found that English hospitals could save five billion pounds a year of their £55bn budget by 2020 using cost cutting tactics. The report was based on examination of how 136 of England’s156 acute hospital trusts operate.
Labour peer Lord Carter of Coles who carried out the review, claimed hospitals are not making best use of income and need to urgently improve if the NHS is going to make the £22bn a year of efficiency savings it has pledged to deliver by 2020-21.
The Report says: “The NHS is expected to deliver efficiencies of 2–3% per year, effectively setting a 10–15% real terms cost reduction target for achievement by April 2021. While the NHS ranks as the best value healthcare system in the world, we know more could be done to improve quality and efficiency in our hospitals so they can meet this expectation.”
Janet Davies, the Royal College of Nursing chief executive said: “The focus on efficiencies must not be at the expense of safe care. In the past efficiency drives have eclipsed the focus on safe staffing levels and patient care. In the future the two must go hand in hand. All the evidence shows that it is the number of registered nurses which has the biggest impact on patient care in acute settings and any new metric to measure staff deployment must not be used by trusts to hide a diluted skill mix.”
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust thinktank, warned that hospitals could see so many NHS-wide targets as “another round of the kneejerk centralisation that has served the NHS badly in recent years”.
In the second NHS report that has been released, this time by the National Audit Office, found that the NHS recruitment process for doctors, nurses and midwives are “fragmented” and very expensive. In 2015 the NHS was short of 50,000 staff, a 6% vacancy rate, and was reliant on expensive agency staff to plug gaps in rotas.
Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO said: ““Given the size of the NHS, workforce planning will never be an exact science, but we think it clearly could be better than it is.”