Scrapping the health bill would save the Government over £1bn in 2013 and give the NHS the stability to make improvements in ‘efficiency and productivity’, according to an health policy expert.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Kieran Walshe, professor of health policy and management at Manchester Business School, claims that abandoning the Health and Social Care Bill would remove the need for the Government to establish the NHS Commissioning Board and other statutory bodies, saving the Government at least £650m in annual running costs and around £360m in set up costs.
He points out that the streamlining of PCTs into clusters is already delivering ‘most’ of the £1.5bn a year in administrative savings the Government promised under the reforms.
Professor Walshe argues that scrapping the reforms would stop ‘the damaging period of prolonged organisational uncertainty in the NHS’. The stability would allow NHS organisations to ‘focus on what is the real and urgent problem for the NHS’ – the need to sustain performance in economically straitened times.
Professor Walshe admits that abandoning the health bill ‘would be politically painful and damaging’ for ministers, but argues that the Government might gain public credit by scrapping the controversial NHS reforms.
‘They might get some credit from the media and the public for listening and learning, but they would also neutralise an issue which has become increasingly politically toxic for them,’ Professor Walshe adds.
‘They could then plan to accomplish much of their intended reform agenda – greater patient choice, more GP involvement in commissioning, increased plurality and competition in healthcare provision – using existing legislative provisions,’ he concludes. ‘And the NHS could get on with delivering healthcare to patients, and the serious business of finding ways to do more with less.’