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NHS 'will really be up against it' in 2015, says minister

Health services will be set for even greater financial restraints next year as a health minister admitted the NHS will ‘really be up against it’ in 2015/16.

Speaking at the NICE annual conference today in Birmingham, Earl Howe said this could nonetheless benefit the system in the long run as it would ‘force’ NHS managers and the workforce to stop wasting resources and improve quality and safety as a result.

Earl Howe said: ‘We’re facing a tough year financially in 14/15 - but in 15/16 I don’t want to disguise from anyone in this hall that we are going to be really up against it. In many ways that is good - it forces us to look at waste in the system, at unnecessary expense in the system, areas where quality and safety can go hand in hand with cost effectiveness.’

He added: ‘[There was a] very interesting visit that Jeremy Hunt made to America recently, looking at one their hospitals whose safety record has improved out of all recognition in the last few years, and their costs - this is what struck Jeremy - are 60% below those of their nearest rivals as a result of that safety agenda. And it shows what you can do by driving costs down in the system and improving care.’

Responding to questions, Earl Howe also said it was important for private providers to be as open to scrutiny as others - and claimed the Government was ‘neutral’ on whether competition should be used, which he said was up to commissioners.

He said: ‘The Government is neutral on whether there should be more or less independent sector involvement in health care but if commissioners decide they want to buy more care from the independent or voluntary sector then yes, rules should be the exactly the same on transparency so we can be aware of the outcomes they’re delivering.’

‘Competition should always be on the basis of quality and not price - so that’s another level on which the playing field should be equal.’

Earl Howe’s comments come after it was revealed NHS England had accrued a large surplus through savings on commissioning of primary care services while at the same time overspending on specialist services, which GP commissioning leads warned could be wasteful.

Readers' comments (8)

  • We're up against it now , fechiniijit .

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  • imagine how much we could save getting rid of Earl Howe?

    1. is he involved in providing direct patient care? No
    2. what is his job? not known.
    3. will the NHS collapse if his job ceases to exist? No

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  • Thus spake the ex-private banker with an hereditary peerage and a degree in classics

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  • Took Early Retirement

    as 4.23.

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  • Note to self - stop wasting resources.

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  • Has been up against it for the last 4 years+.I wonder why,bloody politicians!

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  • ‘The Government is neutral on whether there should be more or less independent sector involvement in health care...' Utter tripe.
    We only have ourselves to blame, and our leaders. Meldrum has a lot to answer for. The RCGP knew 90+% of us were against the HSC act, Meldrum pushes for critical engagement and never represented the BMA members opposition to the act.. Now the blame squarely on the commissioners doorstep, which of course is GPs and the CCGs.
    Staffs was a 5* trust until efficency (staff cuts) savings. Efficincy savings in GP land will be the continuing demise of income of partners to prop up the NHS. Most of us cannot cope with the workload now and any investment in primary care would be to prop up the increasing demand by trying to get more staff. I'm sure HMG think we'd line our pockets.
    Time to act or fall on our swords.
    It's sad as 22 years into a medical career I want to get out. Many good people are working their preverbials off to keep the NHS going and are not willing to unite and take proper action to really save it for the future. Start saving to fund your own health care.
    NHS is a logo. Services are franchises, adios NHS, the most civilising organisation in the Western world is sliced and diced, the vultures are circling.

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  • I have sympathy with Anonymous | GP Partner | 14 May 2014 11:50am.

    I'd like to remind anyone who may have forgotten that this "privatisation by the back door" started under Labour, so Andy Burnham's current claim to the moral high ground is deeply flawed.

    This is a corollary of TTIP and the free trade agenda, bought into by Blair, furthered by Cameron and never opened for debate by either party.

    Our NHS (and a raft of other public services) have been sold down the river.

    Looking at PFI, Serco & G4S contracts of recent years, when it comes to contracting, our government is at best naive, at worst corrupt. Of course, there's always the possibility they are simply incompetent and feckless.

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