The King's Fund responds to the National Audit Office’s report on progress in making NHS efficiency savings

Commenting on the publication of the National Audit Office’s report on progress in making NHS efficiency savings, John Appleby, Chief Economist at The King’s Fund said:

‘This report echoes our own work which shows that the NHS has so far made good progress in meeting current savings targets but has a significant challenge ahead if it is to deliver £20 billion in productivity gains by 2015. However, the extent to which this is delivering genuine productivity gains remains unclear. As the report notes, efficiencies will become harder to deliver, as one-off savings such as cuts in management costs start to slow, and much will depend on whether pay increases continue to be restrained.

‘Major reconfigurations of services are needed to improve the quality of care and increase financial sustainability, yet the decision-making process remains complex and is often undermined by resistance to change, even when a strong clinical and financial case has been made. As the report points out, achieving the remainder of the productivity gains needed is to some extent predicated on delivering changes to services, so significant political courage will be needed in the second half of this parliament to see these changes through.

‘In striving to meet the financial challenge, it is vital to retain the focus on improving the quality of care this is what the QIPP programme aims to achieve. One important but so far under-exploited way of achieving this is to reduce unwarranted variations in performance and treatments.'

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