Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Unrealistic NHS savings targets to result in rationing, report warns

NHS England 'will struggle' to save £22bn by 2020 and is likely to be left with at least a £6n funding gap, a new financial report has concluded.

The Nuffield Trust pointed out that to date hospitals and other NHS providers have achieved 'savings closer to 2% over the last three years' rather than the 4% target set out, 'resulting in an underlying provider deficit in 2015/16 of £3.7bn'.

The think tank points out that for the longer term NHS England is relying on its plans for 'new models of care' to curb the growth in activity and cut costs, but said it is 'highly unlikely' to materialise as existing funding will need to be directed towards the deficit. 

The report said: 'The NHS in England will struggle to meet the requirement, set by the Five Year Forward View, to save £22 billion by 2020.

'Our analysis examines the funding gap in detail and concludes that even if hospitals and other NHS providers made cost savings of 2% a year, year after year, the funding gap would still stand at around £6bn by 2020/21.'

The report concludes that: '[I]f commissioners fail in their attempts to reduce the rate at which demand is growing, or if additional funding cannot be secured, the NHS will face some unpalatable decisions in order to curb the growth in activity and bring the books into balance'.

It said this could amount to 'rationing' such as 'extending waiting times for treatment, raising the threshold at which patients become eligible for treatment, cutting some services altogether, or closing whole sites or hospitals'.

Nuffield Trust further warned that this comes at the very time when the public is expecting new investment in the NHS, having voted for Brexit on a pledge that EU contributions worth £350m a week would now be spent on NHS instead.

The report said: 'These rationing dilemmas come immediately after the EU referendum, which may have heightened public expectations that there will be new investment for the NHS.'

Readers' comments (3)

  • Oh really...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The bigger problem will be the faltering economy, which will further undermine the ability of the exchequer to afford even this much. If the Tories are smart, they will borrow or print money at record levels and us it to rebuild. Fasten your seatbelts folks. Turbulence ahead.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • good to see some rational thinking and realism.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

IMPORTANT: On Wednesday 7 December 2016, we implemented a new log in system, and if you have not updated your details you may experience difficulties logging in. Update your details here. Only GMC-registered doctors are able to comment on this site.