18 Sep 2013

NHS ‘will fail’ to make £20bn savings target

The government has tasked the NHS with making efficiency savings of £20bn of by 2015. But a study of senior managers shows one in ten believe there is a 50 per cent chance they will meet their target.

The so-called Nicholson Challenge of delivering £20bn savings by 2015 will make more funds available for treating patients and allow the NHS to respond to changing demands and new technologies, the government says.

But a survey of NHS senior manager by the King’s Fund‘s found that there was little confidence among finance directors in the changes of making the savings.

More than half (56 per cent) identified a high or very high risk that the target will not be met.

Only a third of trusts surveyed expected to meet their cost improvement targets for 2013/14 – a sharp fall on the same quarter last year when nearly three-quarters were confident of meeting their targets.

The survey, which provides a regular update on how the health service is coping, includes finance leads from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) as well as trust finance directors this quarter, and highlights the growing pressures on NHS providers.

Patient care worsens

The poll found that commissioners were more optimistic. But over one in ten still said they expect their organisation to be in deficit in 2013/14.

When it comes to patient care, nearly a third of the commissioners polled said had got worse over the past year, compared to 14 per cent who said it had improved.

With 61 hospitals breaching the government’s target, the King’s Fund said it highlights the challenge that the NHS faces in managing pressures in A&E over the coming winter, despite new funding announced last week.

Over the first quarter of 2013/14, 241,000 patients (4.3 per cent) spent four hours or more in A&E. Although this is back within target range, it is the highest level for this quarter since 2004.