NHS set to save £5.9bn this year

 A report from the Department of Health shows that the NHS is on track to deliver up to £5.9bn savings this financial year, ahead of its annual target of £5bn cuts per year.

The Quarter 2 report claims that the NHS has maintained or improved the quality of services in eight key quality areas, including infection control.

However, the report does not acknowledge the impact of ‘red lists’ in rationing NHS treatments.

The report sets out NHS financial and quality performance from July to September 2011, and claims key quality successes:

• MRSA infections were reduced by 33% and C. difficile infections by 16% relative to the same quarter last year.

• The 18-week waiting time target continued to be achieved for 90% of inpatients and 95% of outpatients (though increases in waiting times have been reported by many NHS trusts).

• The NHS has continued to meet key cancer treatment standards.

The report predicts a year-end surplus for the NHS of about £1.2bn for 2011/12. PCTs estimate that they can achieve £5.9bn savings in this financial year – a major improvement on the £4.3bn saved last year.

The DH pointed to examples of local NHS initiatives to shift healthcare into the community and give patients more control over their own care, including:

• a home nursing service for children and young adults with asthma in South East Essex

• individual care plans for frequent ambulance callers developed in Kirklees for use by ambulance crews and A&E clinicians.

David Flory, Deputy Chief Executive of the NHS, commented: “The NHS is in the early stages of its plans to deliver up to £20bn of efficiency savings by 2014/15 whilst maintaining or improving quality. The results from the second quarter of 2011/12 are encouraging, showing the NHS continues to deliver strongly for patients while maintaining a healthy financial position.”

However, the health impact of the Audit Commission’s ‘red lists’ of drugs and procedures, restricting availability to the most severe cases, is not discussed in the report since outcome targets do not refer to care that is no longer provided.