The progress of a high profile review into NHS efficiency has slipped against the timeline set by ministers.

  • Progress of Lord Carter’s efficiency review slips against health secretary’s timeline
  • Trusts to be sent savings estimates “shortly”
  • Initial figures to be based on contentious reference costs

Lord Carter and his team at the Department of Health have been working with 32 trusts to identify opportunities for savings in four areas. He has estimated that £5bn could be saved by 2019-20 by improving efficiency in workforce management, medicines, estates and procurement.

In June, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said trusts would each be given an estimated savings figure “by September”, and restated this timeline while giving evidence at the health select committee last month.

Lord Carter

Lord Carter has been working with 32 trusts to identify opportunities for savings

Trusts have not yet received these figures. HSJ understands that a letter was sent at the end of September that said the estimates will be issued “in the next few weeks”.

These estimates will be used as a starting point for agreeing a final savings target by the end of December.

Amid ballooning provider deficits, it has been claimed that Lord Carter’s team was pressured by ministers to fast track its work.

The letter said the estimated savings figures, which are not due to be made public, will be “primarily” based on reference costs, which is likely to cause concern among providers.

Reference costs, which are also used to set national tariffs, are the average unit cost to the NHS of providing healthcare, and rely on accurate data being submitted by trusts.

A recent audit by Monitor found that 49 per cent of trusts sending data had made “materially inaccurate” submissions.

The audit said the lack of compliance suggests that most acute trusts use budgetary rather than costing information for day to day management, while “a few trusts have taken this position to the extreme by submitting reference costs based on national averages or standard weightings”.

On the Carter review timeline, a DH spokesman said: “The process of agreeing final saving targets, which will be calculated using a range of data sources to develop the model hospital, will begin shortly and is likely to last a few months.”

The model hospital was recommended by Lord Carter to show what good practice looks like and enable trusts to compare all areas of efficiency and productivity.

The DH did not comment on whether trusts will have to start making agreed savings from January, as previously suggested by Mr Hunt.