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Jeremy Hunt calls on NHS to deliver £10bn a year efficiency savings

The NHS must save up to £10bn a year by 2020 by reducing its use of agency staff and management consultants, selling off unused property and cutting clinical errors, the health secretary has said.

Speaking at yesterday’s King’s Fund annual conference in London, Jeremy Hunt said: “If we are to be truly financially sustainable we need to rethink how we spend money in a much more fundamental way.”

His comments follow the release of NHS England’s blueprint for the health service, which called for a greater use of technology and innovation to improve patient healthcare while delivering cost savings the sector.

The proposed reductions from the NHS’s annual budget of £110bn will be helped by a drive for more innovation, according to Hunt.

The health secretary stated that reducing prescription errors could save £551m, while selling off some of the NHS’s estimated £7.5bn worth of surplus land and buildings could yield major one-off savings, including £1.5bn in London alone.

He is also targeting agency staffing bills which have soared from £1bn to almost £2.5bn, and believes using fewer management consultants would save £500m from the annual bill.

Responding to Hunt’s proposals, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “The hypocrisy of Hunt gets worse by the day. He slashed nurse training places and left hospitals at the mercy of expensive agencies and overseas recruitment. He should put his own house in order first.

“David Cameron spent more than £1bn on pay-offs for NHS managers during the re-organisation – a scandalous waste of money when patient care is heading backwards.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Prof Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said the £10bn of savings was realistic but would take five years to deliver.

“It’s good that the debate is now starting about the need to look at where efficiency savings can be made, and it’s good that the focus is on clinical care, not just back-office functions,” he said.

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