Better informed patients would want fewer operations, saving the NHS £150m, according to work by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.
The figure comes from early analysis of a “shared decisions” tool, which asks patients about their expectations of surgery and whether they have considered alternatives.
Patients are also provided with information about the procedure to ensure they are already well informed before seeing a specialist.
The NHS Institute predicts shared decisions could reduce planned surgery rates by around 10 per cent in the UK.
NHS Institute chief executive Bernard Crump told HSJ: “It [the tool] has a significant contribution to make to the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention agenda but is also very congruent with putting patients at the centre of decisions about their care.”
He added: “The challenge is with developing the advice and keeping it up to date, particularly as clinical evidence comes along.”
Reducing the need for knee replacements by 10 per cent would save £40m, based on 2008-09 figures, followed by £24.2m for cataracts and £12.8m for hernia operations. Added to 10 other common procedures this would save £150m a year, the institute believes.
Similar projects in the US, where patients are more likely to have surgery, have reduced elective procedures by 20-25 per cent.
The shared decisions work has been piloted, with help from NHS Direct, on patients in Oldham, Middlesbrough and Stanmore with osteoarthritis, localised prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia.
There are now plans to expand the programme into amniocentesis, early stage breast cancer and prostate cancer screening.
Department of Health national clinical lead for shared decision making Steven Laitner said it would help inform service planning by revealing, for example, the desire of patients to undergo treatment that could be provided in the community.
He said: “It’s not about saving money, it’s about relocating services so people get the care they need.”
The questionable benefit of much of the surgery being done was also highlighted by the first major release of patient reported outcome measures. The figures suggested that a third of surgical patients undergoing four specified procedures felt there had been no change in their condition or that symptoms had deteriorated since their operation.
Last year’s controversial McKinsey report claimed up to £700m a year is unnecessarily spent on hospital procedures and that trusts could cut up to 90 per cent of this work.