An update on the cost of care in the community: Cathy Newman questioned Health Secretary Andy Burnham today on the government’s claims that it would save £2.7bn a year by providing one-to-one cancer care at home.

The plan entitles 1.6 million people to personal treatment, shorter waiting times to see specialists and faster test results. But two experts we spoke to yesterday were confused by the figures and cast doubt on the projected savings.

Mr Burnham said the costs had been “carefully worked out” and will provide us with a full breakdown. We’ll update this page when we get it.

5.30pm UPDATE: Well, we had to wait four hours for a reply from the Department of Health. So, finally, here is the breakdown of the £2.7bn a year saving:

£750m savings are possible through driving down variation across the country by ensuring current best practice in terms of case management, care planning and self care support.

A further £750m savings are possible through reducing emergency admissions for people with long term conditions to the level of the best performing systems internationally.

£1.2bn will be delivered through reforms to community services, driving improvements in the efficiency of community services, so that in all areas of the country efficiency levels meet those currently achieved by the best performing areas.

These savings for the period up to 2013/14 build on efficiencies and savings of £2.1bn which have already been delivered through improvements in the management of long term conditions.

(Source: Department of Health)

We thought it was only fair to run the figures past the experts we consulted yesterday.

Richard Humphries from the King’s Fund was not available to comment but his colleague Catherine Foot was able to look at the data.


“It is not easy to make these savings,” says the senior policy fellow.

“These figures assume a great deal of activity that the NHS has historically found difficult. To suddenly deliver these efficiency savings will be a tremendous challenge.”

Foot believes difficult decisions will have to be made across the NHS for the savings to be achieved.

“I would not dispute the potential of these figures,” she says, “but these aspirations are pretty challenging.”

‘Not good enough’

Professor Allyson Pollock at Edinburgh University has not changed her mind.

“They haven’t given us the breakdown of these savings,” she says.

“It’s not good enough to send a few lines. We need to see all the paper, the data and the modelling.” She is also concerned this policy will see costs shifting to patients, carers and relatives.

And in response to a comment for one of our readers “MarkT“, who questioned the authority of Professor Pollock to comment on the NHS in England because she is based in Scotland.

“Nonsense,” she replies, adding that the majority of the research for her book NHS Plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care was focused on the National Health Service in England.