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NHS reforms are hindering savings, MPs warn

24 January 2012 - 3:20pm

A committee of MPs looking at public spending in the health service says the government’s NHS reforms are making it difficult for trusts to make the required efficiency savings.

The Commons health committee outlined its findings in a largely critical report looking at how well the NHS is meeting its savings targets.

The report, published on Tuesday, says MPs are concerned the health service will struggle to make the equivalent of 4 per cent annual savings needed, and that the reorganisation process was ‘complicating’ this.

Reforms were often creating ‘disruption and distraction’ the report said, and this ‘hinders the ability of organisations to consider truly effective ways of reforming service delivery and releasing savings’.

The health select committee found that short-term ‘salami-cutting’ of services is taking place as PCTs struggle to find £20bn in savings.

These findings echo those in a report the CSP produced this month,  Stretched to the limit, which detailed the extent of cuts to physiotherapy services across the NHS.

‘Reckless’

CSP chief executive Phil Gray backed the committee’s findings, saying the scale of the government’s reorganisation was ‘reckless’ at a time when the NHS was being asked to save up to £20bn.

‘This large-scale restructuring combined with ill thought through short-term financial cuts is going to cost the NHS – and patients – in the long term,’ Mr Gray said.

Mounting criticism

Amid the mounting criticism on ministers over the reforms, health secretary Andrew Lansley has stood firm. In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday he said the reforms were ‘essential if we are to put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the future’.

The Health and Social Care Bill, which was the catalyst for the reforms, is still making its way through parliament.

Mr Lansley told the BBC: ‘The legislation's not completed its passage, the Lords are making many significant and constructive suggestions, and we will take those on-board, but the principles of the bill are widely supported.’

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