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Seven things we learned from the NHS England board meeting last week

Seven things we learned from the NHS England board meeting last week

Carolyn Wickware breaks down seven things we heard at the NHS England board meeting on Friday
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1)   NHS England is planning to stop the prescribing of homeopathic treatments

Following the announcement in March that NHS England would be reviewing the prescribing of ‘low-value’ medications like travel vaccines and fish oils, it was announced at the board meeting that eight more treatments would also come under review including homeopathic prescribing.

The report presented at the board meet said homeopathy cost the NHS £578,000 over the last five years, but added that the total cost could be higher than that if cost of consultations was factored in.

Speaking at the meeting, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: ’I think this (homeopathy) has been an issue, which has concerned scientific professionals for a long period of time.

‘We can no longer shy away from addressing this particular issue. If we want our NHS to be evidence based and outcomes focused, then we must expect to have difficult conversations over difficult issues.’

2)   NHS England’s chief executive has taken a 10% pay cut on his salary

Once again, Simon Stevens has taken a voluntary 10% pay cut on his salary – something that he has done annually since he was put at the helm of the NHS in 2013. This was praised by chairman of NHS England just days after the BBC released the salaries of those making over £150,000.

Mr Stevens replied: ‘It's remarkable that a nurse who acts in a programme called Casualty earns ten times more than a nurse who actually works in a casualty.’

3)   Commonwealth Fund report also found that healthcare-related deaths are declining the UK

The Commonwealth Fund report, which revealed that the NHS is the best health service in 11 wealthy countries, also found that the NHS has had the fastest decline in deaths related to healthcare over the last decade.

Simon Stevens, who said he ‘was pleased’ to see the results of the report, added: Although there's been some commentary on that, I don't think that's properly reflected the fact that those results showed that we'd had the fastest decline in deaths amenable to healthcare over the course of the last decade and our performance on that measure is now better than Germany or the US.’

4)   NHS England expects a £1bn increase in efficiency savings in 17/18

According to the financial report for month two of 2017/18, NHS England is expecting commissioners to save £1bn more in 17/18 than they saved in 16/17.

Paul Baumann, chief financial officer for NHS England said most of the increase is due to come from transformational schemes. He said: ‘So the easy stuff is largely done, the difficult stuff lies ahead of us.’

He added: ‘We're committed both to intervene and rapidly to support those CCGs most at risk of missing their control totals and also to identify opportunities to generate central savings and reserves wherever the potential arises.’

Mr Baumann also said the efficiency saving don’t include this year’s system reserve.

5)   The responsibility of saving this years system reserve will fall to trusts and CCGs

Last year, CCGs were tasked with saving £800m in addition to meeting their control totals in an effort to help stabilise NHS finances.

However this year the responsibility will be split, with CCGs expected to reserve £560m and trusts £270m, in the form of a reserve from their CQUIN earnings.

Paul Baumann told the board: ‘Given the deficit in provider plans and significant in-year delivery risks for both commissioning and the provider sectors, it's clearly going to be essential that the professional discipline demonstrated by commissioners last year... is maintained by both sectors this year.’

6)   A quarter of CCGs missed their efficiency targets by 1% or more

Paul Baumann commended commissioners for dealing with ‘a number of unexpected in year pressures’, including making savings beyond their control totals to set aside savings for the £800m system risk reserve.

He said: ‘It's therefore a great credit to CCGs that the majority delivered both their underlying control totals and the additional surplus required by the system reserve.’

But he added: ‘Having said that we do have a significant minority of CCGs, about a quarter of them scattered pretty evenly across the country, who fell short of that combined objective by 1% or more.’

7)   NHS England will be launching a full report on primary care investment in September

Paul Baumann said there has been real term growth in the funding for core GP services. He added that a ‘full and detailed’ picture of investment in primary care would be revealed ‘in the annual report on investment in general practice which we will produce with NHS Digital for publication in September’.

However, Simon Stevens said there has been ‘a bit of a misunderstanding’ surrounding the level of investment in general practice due to ‘accounting changes’. He said: ‘There's been a bit of misunderstanding over the last 48 hours over some of the numbers in the report in respect of primary care investment.’

He added: ‘It would be wrong to infer from these data that in some way general practice has not done well in 16/17.’

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