Hospitals need to follow in the footsteps of retailers when it comes to cost-cutting techniques and quality measures, it has been claimed.

Professor Paul Corrigan, a former health adviser to prime minister Tony Blair, warned that the “protectionism and political conservatism” of the NHS is actually a barrier that blocks good patient care.

He is calling for the health service to break from tradition and adopt the same thinking that has cut costs and improved quality in grocery retail, high street retail and car manufacturing in recent years.

The comments, made in a report for independent think tank Reform, are supported by Mike Parish, chief executive of the independent health company Care UK, who also contributed to the paper on the state of care nationwide.

Prof Corrigan argues that much needs to change in the NHS but that effort is hindered by a “false loyalty” to traditional models and organisations, the vast majority of which have changed little in the last five decades.

He also suggests that primary care is largely provided through a “cottage industry” of small GP practices, while too many patients with long-term conditions receive treatment and care in acute hospitals

The authors want to see health bosses learn from supermarket stores like Tesco and Sainsbury’s - both of which have developed a “hub-and-spoke” model of larger superstores working with smaller local outlets.

Car manufacturers such as Mazda, Volkswagen and BMW should also be an inspiration, they argue, especially their “zero error” approach, which has helped to deliver a dramatic improvement in quality.

Prof Corrigan and Mr Parish predict that new models of healthcare provided by both public and independent organisations will replace nearly three-quarters of NHS care - hospitals and GP practices - by 2024.

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