‘Hospital beds must be cut’ to meet efficiency savings

By Alex Stevenson

The NHS will have to "radically reorient" itself away from hospital-based treatment to avoid sleepwalking into a "financial crisis", the head of the NHS Confederation has warned.

Chief executive Mike Farrer warned in an article for the Guardian newspaper that the biggest money problem facing the NHS was the £20 billion of efficiency savings required by 2015.

Either the NHS will maintain standards but go bust while doing so, see standards slip but maintain its finances or manage to keep improving and stay in the black.

"Clearly, we all want the third option," Mr Farrar wrote.

"But we will only get there if the NHS can release resources to meet growing demand.

"This means radically reorienting services to reduce hospital stays and offering new forms of care. Put bluntly, this means fewer beds and fewer hospital-based jobs."

The independent membership organisation for all NHS employees fears the NHS will "salami-slice its way out of financial trouble" by using less effective treatment and cutting services as a result of the efficiency savings.

"I am deeply concerned that the gravity of this problem for the NHS is not widely understood by patients and the public," he added.

"There is a real risk we will sleepwalk into a financial crisis that patients will feel the full force of."

Recent research among NHS workers found over half expected patient access would get worse. Forty-two per cent said they thought their organisation was in its worst financial situation in their experience.