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13-12-2010 | General practice | Article

Spending plans test NHS to the limit


Health Committee Report: Public Expenditure

Government spending plans will test the NHS to the limit, says a report by the Health Select Committee.

Efficiency savings outlined by the government will mean the NHS has to deliver a 4% efficiency gain, 4 years running, points out Steven Dorrell, chair of the committee.

This is a 'big ask', he commented. "There is no precedent for efficiency gain on this scale in the history of the NHS."

Dorrell added that, in real terms, the NHS budget is not about cuts, but the NHS will need to "find ways of doing more with the same amount of money." He asks that the government develop a 'better narrative' on how this is going to be done.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, agreed: "We urge the government to give greater clarity and to explain to healthcare staff, professional bodies and patients, the true scale of the savings required and to ensure the service has a proper strategy as to how it is going to find them."

One of the concerns outlined by the committee is that the £1.7 billion figure included in the NHS Operating Framework in 2010-11, and currently used by the government as the cost of its reorganization proposals, no longer relates to their specific proposals and needs to be re-estimated.

It is also sceptical of the government's belief that 40% of the efficiency gain required can be achieved simply by reducing the tariff.

However, the committee does welcome the government's move to transfer £1 billion from the NHS to social care services budgets, but questions whether councils could sustain care levels without reducing eligibility criteria.

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