Lord Carter’s interim report stresses workforce and procurement as major contributors to possible £5bn annual savings
A government-commissioned report setting out ways that the NHS in England might achieve efficiencies worth £5bn a year is shy of making specific recommendations concerning IT. The interim report by Labour peer Lord Carter of Coles gives a brief mention to the NHS summary care record and electronic procurement, but does not propose any new investments in systems.
This is in contrast to the last Labour government’s Wanless review, which in 2002 recommended a massive increase in NHS IT spending, and eventually to the ill fated NHS National Programme for IT.
Rather, Carter’s report on efficiencies in NHS providers stresses the opportunities for efficiency savings in such areas as workforce management and procurement. These include a “tightly controlled single electronic catalogue for products purchased by hospitals”.
These could add up to £5bn per annum by 2019-20 “provided there is political and managerial commitment to take the necessary steps and funding to achieve these efficiencies,” Carter says.
He adds: “Wider use of the national summary care record (SCR) will improve the quality and safety of medicines reconciliations. Use of the SCR could also save up to 50% of the time taken to confirm an accurate drug history for each patient.”
The report is based on data from 22 hospitals, picked to create a represenative sample. However, Carter concludes that “there is a need for a model to define what an efficient NHS hospital looks like”. The NHS does not even have a consistent method of measuring efficiency, and he calls for an effort to create a “model hospital” to show how good clinical practice, workforce management and careful spending lead to measurable efficiency improvements whilst retaining or improving quality.
He also notes that “there are further areas that require investigation, such as diagnostics (radiology and pathology), IT, clinical IT and moving into primary care areas such as community pharmacy.”
Carter will publish a fuller report on NHS productivity this autumn.
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