A third of acute services in the NHS are not needed, the NHS Confederation has said.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the body which represents all health service organisations, said that 30 per cent of patients treated in acute care could be treated elsewhere in the health service.

Mr Farrar told the health select committee that a “big chunk” of the government’s £20bn efficiency drive needs to be found in acute services.

“We would effectively be able to operate with a much smaller acute base,” Mr Farrar said.

“Not that we would be able to get rid of it entirely but we would need a smaller acute base for acutely ill patients.”

He said that assessments which test whether inpatients need hospital services have found that 30 per cent to 40 per cent could be treated elsewhere.

“I think we could be talking at least 30 per cent of our acute capacity which we do not need,” he said.

In order to reconfigure hospitals, it would be “absolutely critical” to strengthen GP services, community care and social care, he added.