With negotiation and launch of the NHS Long Term Plan, efficiency within the NHS has been under significant scrutiny in recent months. The last couple of days have seen two interesting announcements which have contributed data and perspective to the topic.
NHS England (NHSE) has reported on productivity within the NHS, announcing a 3% increase in productivity. While lauding staff dedication, NHSE also cites the figures as evidence of success in continuous improvement within the health service, including:
- Phasing out methods and treatments where superior approaches exist
- Reduction in commissioning with limited cost-effectiveness
- Reduction in unwarranted national variation
Investment in improvement is a major theme in the NHS Long Term Plan, and NHSE cite these figures as validation of this approach, noting expectations that the Long Term Plan will achieve £1bn in efficiency savings in addition to the £20.5bn of additional money.
However the National Audit Office (NAO) has this week published a report in which it reviews the audits conducted for local government bodies, including the NHS. The report finds that of 442 local NHS organisations, with a combined spend of £100bn, 38% received ‘qualified opinions’, indicating that the bodies had not met savings targets and were struggling to balance their budgets. This is up from the 29% of qualified opinions in 2015/16, raising concerns that planned savings may not be being achieved as hoped.