Tory plans to slash NHS bureaucracy raise more questions than answers

Andrew Lansley's plans for the NHS raise more questions than answers.

Andrew Lansley this week delivered his vision for saving money in the NHS – namely by claiming the Tories would slash a third off the administrative costs within the NHS. Primary Care Trusts, Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs), and even the Department of Health would not be spared.

The Tories have calculated that the annual cost of “NHS bureaucracy” is £4.38 billion. They say this is made up of £2.14bn for PCT running costs, £1.94bn for the cost of quangos, £200 million for Department of Health running costs, and £100m for SHA running costs.

Mr Lansley added that by the end of its fourth year in power the Conservative government would have cut spending on bureaucracy by a third to £3bn a year.

However Richard Vize of the Health Service Journal writes that the Shadow Health Secretary’s approach is an “oversimplification” and is nowhere near the £20bn of savings required in the Service. This figure is put forward by David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS.

He continues that with £1.5bn saved in administration costs over four years and £1bn from a public sector pay freeze he will still be the small matter of £17.5bn short. The real question therefore has to be what further cuts will be involved and more importantly what will happen to frontline services.

Management savings may be necessary, but there is a link between frontline services and the support staff that make their delivery possible. Doctors and nurses cannot provide a quality service without the real people who very often do the most mundane but vital tasks-making appointments, managing theatres and running sterile stores department.

The McKinsey Report, which recommended closing 137,000 clinical and admin posts by 2014 to save £20 bn, was rejected by Labour. Does Mr Lansley intend to take on these recommendations and are his plans for admin cuts an indication of what is in store for frontline services? This is the real question.

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