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NHS Confederation response to Lord Carter review on procurement

Rob Webster, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation commented on Lord Carter's Review of Operational Productivity in NHS providers Interim Report.

"The government has pledged at least £8 billion in additional funding for the NHS by 2020. This will mean the NHS will need to find almost three times more - £22 billion over the period – by improving productivity and efficiency. Making savings from the way NHS supplies are purchased and from temporary staffing will make a contribution to filling this gap. This will be a vital area for NHS providers to explore and Lord Patrick Carter's interim review has been published at the right time to help them to do so.

"Lord Carter has been meticulous over the last year and worked closely with many NHS Confederation members to explore how goods and services are purchased in the health service. Agency staff will continue helping the NHS provide quality care for the foreseeable future but we need to reduce their use and cost. Improvements in flexible working, better technology and arrangements with local agencies can all help shrink their impact on NHS finances.

"Lord Carter's interim findings are crucial to understanding how costs might be brought down and we expect that the implementation of his review will be developed further with the sector, in the spirit it has been up to now. The potential savings need to be tested and developed with the wider NHS, so that final savings targets due to be handed to the NHS from September, are owned by the whole service.

“In our recent member survey published last week, 71 per cent of senior NHS leaders described the current financial pressures as the worst they have ever experienced. We are keen to support our members in the challenges they face and, as announced by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens at our annual conference in Liverpool last week, we will be working with national bodies over the next four months to bring our members together to explore how to make savings in this parliament. This work will look to demonstrate the value of an approach led by the NHS to shape the government's plans due to be laid out in a spending review later this year.

"The NHS needs to demonstrate value for taxpayer money and, like any public service, there is always more that can be done to improve productivity. While it is fair to say waste exists in the NHS, it’s not true to say it is wasteful. In fact, data on spending and outcomes show the NHS is relatively efficient compared to other countries and our members’ efforts to reduce costs in the last parliament delivered almost £19 billion worth of savings.

"Of course, more can be done because any wasted resource could be better spent meeting the growing cost of delivering care to a rapidly increasing number of patients. Price variations are a particularly salient way of showing where costs might be saved, for example by reducing the number of product lines. We would be keen to also emphasise the benefits from collective action with providers bringing down costs through collaboration. This approach is a great way to build up networks that harness the purchasing power of the NHS, while also presenting opportunities for knowledge and expertise sharing beyond supply chains.”

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