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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2011): National Health Service - funding

Consortia pick up PCT savings burden

C. Dowler

Health Service Journal, Apr. 7th 2011, p. 4-5

This article reports that primary care trusts (PCTs) facing the toughest savings targets are handing responsibility for the huge spending reductions they must achieve to pathfinder GP commissioning consortia. For example, Warrington Health Consortium will be charged with delivering 20m of the 25m savings that NHS Warrington needs to make in 2011/12. In 2010/11 the PCT managed to make recurrent savings of 15m, but was forced to suspend all non-urgent GP referrals for eight weeks to contain costs.

Grand designs for freeing up money

A. McKeon and N. Edwards

Health Service Journal, Apr. 7th 2011, p. 24-25

In order to realise savings at the organisational level, NHS managers need a sophisticated understanding of costs and how they work for commissioners, providers and the system as a whole. Mergers and takeovers are favourite targets for savings, but the benefits they produce (if any) are long term. Reducing demand by allowing waiting lists for treatment to grow in fact saves little money and can actually increase costs through the need to employ people to speed up treatment for individual patients or juggle lists. An acute trust trading its way out of trouble by increasing its income can bankrupt the local health economy when money is tight.

Nurses vote for strike ballot over pay freeze

O. Wright

The Independent, Apr. 15th 2011, p. 2

Nursing leaders voted in favour of a ballot for strike action if the Government attempts to freeze nurses' pay. Furthermore, delegates at the Royal College of Nursing conference voted in favour of a motion of no confidence, saying that Andrew Lansley's proposed reforms of the NHS are not in the interests of patients. Nurses were angered by Health Minister Anne Milton who, earlier in the week, had said the offer of no compulsory redundancies was still on the table if nurses accepted a pay freeze.

Patients are denied high cost drugs by NHS trusts

S. Adams and L. Roberts

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 13th 2011, p. 1 + 2

Family doctors are being prevented from prescribing drugs for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis as primary care trusts attempt to make budget cuts. They are adding more medicines to their so-called 'red lists', which means that they can only be prescribed by a hospital consultant and not a GP.

(See also Independent, Apr. 13th 2011, p. 16)

Patients suffer as operations are rationed

D. Campbell

The Guardian, Apr. 18th 2011, p. 1

The Federation of Surgical Speciality Associations (FSSA) has warned in an open letter that a growing number of patients are being denied hip replacement, weight loss operations and even cancer treatment because of cost cutting in the NHS. The FSSA represents the nine main types of surgeons in the UK.

'Postcode lottery' fear in new cancer drugs fund

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 1st 2011, p. 14

The Cancer Drugs Fund intended to cover the costs of expensive treatments not approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence was launched on April 1st 2011. However, there are concerns that it may lead to a postcode lottery, as the pilot scheme was under-used in the South of England. Doctors in the South said they were deterred from applying for medications under the scheme because the process was too complicated, while others said their requests were rejected out of hand. Doctors in the North of England were more successful in applying for funding for treatments.

Private hospitals provider expects boom as cuts bite

S. Boseley

The Guardian, Apr. 19th 2011, p. 4

Spire Healthcare, one of the UK's leading private hospital providers, says it expects business to boom as the NHS cuts bite, waiting times lengthen and those patients who can find the money decide to pay for treatment instead.

Reducing expenditure on low value clinical treatments

Audit Commission


The Audit Commission calculates that the NHS is carrying out more than 1.4 million treatments of low clinical value every year and that cutting back on these could save 500m annually and would be vital if it is to hit financial targets over the next four years. The report highlights curbs introduced by Croydon Primary Care Trust as an example of how to cut spending on low-value procedures. The trust drew up a list of 34 'low priority' treatments that doctors should try to avoid, including injections for back pain and tonsillectomies. The Commission claims that trusts could save 22.9m a year by reducing knee joint surgery and 22m a year by eliminating hip replacements in mild cases.


Trusts set 'unlikely' savings targets for 2011-12

B. Clover

Health Service Journal, Apr. 21st 2011, p. 4-5

Figures collected from 131 of 144 acute non-specialist NHS trusts show that they have raised their cost improvement targets by an average of 30% in 2011/12, compared to 2010/11, with 31 trusts increasing their target by 50% or more. The analysis suggests that savings will amount to at least 2.4bn. All but 13 acute trusts plan to exceed the NHS operating framework's target of reducing costs by 4%, with a national average of 6%. There are concerns that these savings targets are unrealistic.

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