Questions have been raised over the 1.4bn annual savings identified in junior health minister Lord Darzi’s blueprint for healthcare in London.
As the proposals were launched for consultation last week, King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby warned the proposals could actually increase costs in the long-term.
The report predicts that£1.4bn a year could be saved by changes such as elective centres and the introduction of polyclinics.
Mr Appleby said: ‘I’m very sceptical that there would be any cost savings whatsoever. It’s very dodgy to say£1.4bn.’ He said Lord Darzi’s assumptions about inflation and what an alternative model would cost only ‘have to change very slightly to change the savings into zero’. ‘A different costings model could come up with something that could cost more.’
Stewart Drage, head of Londonwide Local Medical Committees, echoed Mr Appleby: ‘If they think that moving outpatient services into the community will save that amount then their heads aren’t quite on the ground because patients will still need to be looked after.’
The consultation asks London patients, residents and staff for their views on proposals to provide more healthcare at home, cut the number of hospitals dealing with complex treatments, and expand the capital’s medical research.
It also sets out plans to develop 10 pilot polyclinics, saying there could be 150 across London in 10 years’ time. The polyclinics could house several GP practices and provide additional testing and specialist services. They may also be sited at hospitals and stay open 24 hours a day.
Dr Drage said 150 new polyclinics is ‘very ambitious and possibly unrealistic. It sounds like number-crunching.’
A spokesman for NHS London said: ‘This is still out to consultation and no firm decisions have been made.’
The 150 polyclinics had been calculated by dividing the 2006 London population (7.6 million) by the number of people served by a polyclinic (50,000), he said. He said polyclinics offered a cheaper alternative to hospital treatment.
For more analysis by John Appleby, click here