NHS Improvement has reported that major financial savings have been made by the health service in the area of consultancies.
The health service spends a vast amount of money on consultants every year, and considering the perception in some quarters that there are too many middle-manager cooks tending to the NHS broth, this is considered an area with major potential for efficiency savings.
Constraints on consultancy spending in the NHS saved £42m in the third quarter of 2015 and restrictions on agency staff could reduce costs by £160m by the end of the financial year, NHS Improvement has found.
If this pattern could be repeated between now and the end of the decade, it would mean that the health service could save in the region of £1 billion.
This would be considered particularly valuable considering that the government has set a target of £22 billion of efficiency savings for the NHS by 2020.
The health service regulator stated that Department of Health restrictions on the use of management consultants had reduced spending from £145m, incurred between July and September in 2014, to £103m in the same three months in 2015.
And this wasn’t the only valuable morsel of financial news for the NHS.
NHS Improvement also discovered that the health service could make massive savings by dealing with the issue of agency staff more effectively.
The watchdog found that caps on agency staff spending could remove as much as £1bn from the health service’s pay bill by 2018.
With the complex structure of the contemporary NHS, the number of agency staff being hired in order to carry out the day-to-day running of the health service is quite considerable.
Indeed, hospitals spent £3.3bn on agency staff last year following a move to increase staffing levels on wards in the wake of care failures revealed at Mid-Staffordshire hospital.
The double-whammy of £2 billion worth of savings could contribute in the region of 10 per cent of the overall savings targeted by the government.
And health secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed that the figures collated by NHS Improvement indicate that it would be possible for the health service to make savings and improve patient care at the same time.
“Our plans to clamp down on management consultants and rip-off staffing agencies are bearing fruit. Patients will see the reward with savings being reinvested in frontline patient care,” Hunt commented.
The £22 billion efficiency target is set out in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View programme.
Figures have already indicated that the NHS is likely to accumulate a deficit of £2 billion in the existing financial year alone.