NHS unlikely to meet savings targets, say finance directors
By Mark Smulian | 27 September 2012
NHS finance directors are sceptical that the health service can meet its savings targets.
The King’s Fund think-tank said its quarterly survey of NHS performance showed that 27 out of 45 finance directors polled thought there was a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk that the NHS would fail to find the £20bn required by 2015. Just four respondents judged there to be little risk of failure.
The directors were confident that they would find average savings for this year of just under 5%, with only five concerned that they would not.
But they said next year would be more difficult and 19 expected care standards to worsen over the next four years.
Finances were stable this year, the finance directors said, with 35 expected to end the financial year in surplus, and only three anticipating a deficit.
Employment in the NHS has fallen sharply, the survey showed. The number of full-time posts has been cut by 29,000 since March 2010, including some 8,000 managers, equivalent to a drop of around 18%. However, the number of consultants has risen by 8%.
The report found the NHS had performed well against major performance measures. Hospital waiting times fell back to June 2010 levels, having peaked in early 2011, while the number of hospital-acquired infections fell to historically low levels.
King’s Fund chief economist Professor John Appleby said: ‘The NHS continues to perform well in the second year of the productivity challenge.
‘But there are signs that future years will be harder. The end of the public sector pay freeze next April may add to financial pressures and increase the strain on services. The difficulty for local providers will be finding ways to absorb these costs without compromising the quality of care for patients.’