NHS Frontline services will be affected by efficiency drive

More than three quarters (77%) of the UK’s top NHS interim managers think that the Government’s proposed NHS efficiency savings will have a significant negative impact on frontline service delivery says Interim Partners, a leading provider of interim management solutions.

Interims are senior managers and executives who are recruited at or just below board level on a short term basis.

In July the coalition announced plans to implement £15 – 20 billion of efficiency savings. These equate to 3 – 4% efficiency savings per annum until 2015.

Steve Melber, Senior Consultant in Healthcare at Interim Partners says: “Interims are experts in stripping out waste. Their concern is that the NHS simply cannot find this level of savings in this timeframe, with major reforms being made at the same time. They think patient waiting times and the quality of front line service delivery are going to be adversely affected.”

Stephen Dorrell, the former Conservative health secretary who chairs the influential Health Select committee, said that these efficiency savings have “never been achieved in the history of the NHS or any healthcare system in the world.”

Steve Melber comments: “Interims know that the NHS can be more efficient, but they doubt whether sustainable savings can be delivered during the period of huge organisational restructuring signalled by the Lansley reforms.”

“What really makes the perspective offered by interim managers interesting is that most have worked in a variety of hands on management roles right across the NHS. They have a system-wide perspective on the NHS, which is difficult to attain for many permanent NHS managers who often follow quite linear career paths.”

Earlier this month the Government confirmed its plans to press ahead with a radical reform of the NHS. This will include the abolition of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) by 2013.

PCTs are responsible for commissioning healthcare services for their local community. Under new plans this will be passed to GP consortia, who will be responsible for up to £80 billion of the NHS budget.

Private income caps The survey also highlighted that interims are sceptical as to whether Government plans to remove the cap on income from the private sector will reduce the cost of the NHS to the taxpayer – 64% of respondents said that it will not.

Steve Melber says: “If these reforms are implemented, interims think foundation trusts will be quick to maximise their income streams by chasing private patient work. The risk is that clinical resources will start to be stretched. Private patients may take priority and waiting times for NHS patients may start to increase.”

Under the previous Government most hospitals were not allowed to generate more than 2% of their income from private practice. The coalition plans to scrap the cap to increase Foundation trusts’ ability to generate revenue from privately funded healthcare.

However, the survey did reveal that 77% of interim managers think the plans to open up the provision of NHS services to more private sector providers will improve service delivery.

Steve Melber says: “Interims think that plans to beef up competition among providers could be great news for patients because NHS hospitals will now have to complete with private hospital companies who will be able to offer the same treatments at NHS prices. Increased competition will weed out poor service and drive up care standards throughout the NHS. This is one reform that interims are firmly behind.”

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