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Lord Carter: reducing variation in care could save NHS £5 billion

Hospitals can save around £5 billion by reducing variation in care and improving the way they care for patients, Lord Carter said today.

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The call is part of Lord Carter’s review into how savings can be made by the NHS,which aims to help local NHS chief executives make their hospitals safer and more efficient at the same time.

For the first time, the activity carried out by all NHS hospitals has been reviewed together and broken down by clinical speciality. The results show huge variations in clinical costs, infection rates, readmission rates, litigation payments and device and procedure selection. The review has highlighted the huge opportunity for hospitals to tackle these variations.

137 NHS acute hospital trusts (non-specialist) in England have received detailed plans that show how and where they can improve patient care and become more efficient. The £5 billion worth of savings has been broken down by speciality. The top 12 specialties are:

Specialty Potential saving (£ million)
General medicine 381
Obstetrics and gynaecology 362
Trauma and orthopaedics 286
Pathology 256
Cancer services 255
Emergency medicine 254
General surgery 234
Community nursing 217
High cost drugs 213
Paediatrics 209
Intensive and critical care 209
Cardiology 184

Lord Carter said:

Our best hospitals offer patients an excellent service and they are up there with the very best in the world and we want to make sure all NHS hospitals meet these high standards of care. The route to better care is to empower NHS leaders, so giving them the data and support they need means they can improve how they care for patients make savings which can be reinvested in frontline care. Patients will be the real winners.

The data means hospital leaders can compare their organisation against peers which have similar levels of demand and similar populations, meaning they can pinpoint areas of improvement and can identify where large improvements could be made by reducing variation in services.

In the next few months, Lord Carter and Professor Tim Briggs (newly-appointed National Director for Clinical Quality and Efficiency) will travel the country, helping trusts to make these improvements. Lord Carter will meet with NHS hospitals across the country to discuss the savings target he has given them in each clinical area, with the aim of finalising and publishing these targets early next year. The targets will be published alongside a model hospital, highlighting best practice so local NHS leaders can mirror the best performers. Further details will be announced in early 2016.

Lord Carter’s review forms a vital part of the Health Secretary’s plans to make the NHS the safest and most efficient healthcare system in the world, offering a truly 7 day service and providing excellent quality of care for families whenever they need it.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

I want to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, providing excellent care every day of the week, powered by a culture of learning and continuous improvement. We’re giving the service £10 billion extra during this Parliament, and it is vital to use that money to secure the best outcomes. So I’m grateful to Lord Carter, his team and those trusts that have worked to identify ways in which hospitals can become more efficient precisely by doing the right thing by patients.

Published 21 October 2015