Reaction to Lord Carter’s review into NHS productivity, plans from Monitor and the TDA to work more closely together under one chief executive, and the rest of today’s news and comment.

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4.34pm The controversial project is set to restart later this month. Information and opt out forms are due to be sent out to patients in one of the pilot areas.

Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group said it will start sending letters at the end of June, with data extraction likely to take place between September and November.

The NHS England led project, which intends to link patients’ GP and hospital records, initially intended to begin extracting data in autumn last year, but the programme has been dogged by concerns about patient confidentiality.

4.31pm NHS England chief nursing officer Jane Cummings has said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will continue to be used for evidence reviews on safe staffing ‘where appropriate’.

In a letter to nursing directors today, Ms Cummings also said suspending work on safe nurse staffing levels in the NHS was not about saving money and stressed she would not “compromise patient safety”.

Her letter follows mounting criticism of the decision last week by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens to suspend the work.

2.22pm More reaction to Lord Carter’s interim findings on NHS efficiency, from Paul Briddock, director of policy at the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

He said: “We welcome anything that will help NHS organisations become more efficient and eagerly await publication of the metrics that are being developed by Lord Carter’s team.

“However we need to realise that this will only be a very small part of the solution to the massive NHS £30 billion challenge. Even if we can save the potential £5 billion identified by Carter, that is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall savings which organisations will be required to make.

“Today’s report mustn’t mask the fact that transforming service provision, taking a targeted look at what the NHS can and can’t afford to provide and employing radically different service models must remain the key focus for the NHS.” 

12.57pm John Rogers, chief executive at Skills for Health, welcomes Lord Carter’s report, saying: “This type of thorough analysis of spending in the NHS will help put a spotlight on purchasing inefficiencies and national variations and highlight how trusts can take simple steps to save money to provide improved patient care.  

“We’re delighted to see that Lord Carter’s assessment of 22 hospitals also rightly hones in on staff organisation as a vital part of any effort to improve efficiency.   

“We’ve long held the view that investment in readily available and robust workforce planning and rostering tools allows health care employers to deliver a reliable, safe and sustainable workforce.

“It’s important to note that many NHS Trusts are already successfully implementing rostering systems… It would be a real result to see this report enabling more health care employers to recognise and realise the time and cost efficiencies of using this approach.  

“We look forward to the publication of Lord Carter’s template for an efficient model hospital in the summer and would call on the subsequent report to maintain its focus on the importance of workforce planning and staff organisation as a key element in the financial future of the NHS.”

12.54pm Reacting to Lord Carter’s interim findings on NHS efficiency, Unison’s Christina McAnea said: “Of course it’s essential that savings can be made, particularly at a time when NHS budgets are being cut.

“But there is an irony that over the past five years, there has been an almost constant criticism of what the government calls ‘back office’ staff in the NHS. Many of these jobs have disappeared in the name of greater efficiency.

“But unless, as this report shows, there are staff with the right skills and the time to give over to sourcing the best deals for their workplace when it comes to drugs and other supplies purchased, valuable NHS resources will be wasted.

“This is money that could be spent improving patient services. We hope this means the government will now recognise that everyone in the NHS has an important role to play – whether they are in an office or on a ward – to support patients and allow clinical staff to carry out their jobs effectively.”

11.17am The Independent reports that David Tredinnick, parliament’s outspoken advocate of alternative medicines, has got the 15 nominations necessary to run for the role of chair of the Health Select Committee.

He told the paper that resistance to homeopathy was the result of “vested interests protecting their interests” and said the NHS should be willing to look at a “wider range of options on this”.

11.04am NHS Supply Chain’s customer board says it has redefined its role and structure to help meet the financial challenges facing the NHS.

Following the appointment of Sir Ian as the independent chair in December 2013, a review was conducted to identify how the organisation can optimise value for money from non-pay spend.

It focused on the estimated £2 billion funding gap in the NHS identified in the Department of Health’s procurement strategy Better Procurement, Better Value, Better Care, and how the board can ensure the £150 million in cash releasing savings that NHS Supply Chain has been tasked to deliver by March 2016, along with improving the purchasing of capital medical equipment.

10.57am The Guardian reports that a 12-year-old boy has been awarded £120,000 by a court that agreed he had been left severely disabled by narcolepsy triggered by the swine flu vaccine, following a three-year battle in which the government had claimed that his illness was not serious enough to merit payment.

The ruling is expected to lead to as many as 100 other families of people affected by the sleeping disorder after receiving the vaccine bringing fresh compensation claims, in a dispute where the government’s initial hostility was described by the family’s legal team as offensive, the paper says.

10.45am An ambulance service is recruiting paramedics from the Czech Republic and Slovakia - after job adverts in England failed to attract enough qualified staff to fill its vacancies, The Daily Telegraph reports today.

South Western Ambulance Service says there is a national shortage of qualified paramedics in England, meaning that “previous recruitment campaigns have not produced the number of paramedics required across the South West.”

A spokeswoman for the service said that paramedics in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have comparable qualifications and clinical practice to paramedics in England. She said that each of the candidates would undergo a rigorous assessment process, including English language tests, to ensure that all recruits met strict criteria required to work for the service.

10.34am Lord Carter has warned that the new metric he is developing to rate the productivity of every hospital in England must not be used as a ‘crude weapon’ in trust regulation.

The Labour peer was speaking exclusively to HSJ ahead of this morning’s publication of the interim findings of his Department of Health backed review of efficiency in NHS providers.

He writes in the report that while it is not for him to decide how national bodies act on the findings, “a regulatory approach will probably fail to capture the imagination and engagement of hospital boards”.

He told HSJ: “It’s going to be extremely important that people get the hang of this data and build up their confidence and comparability in it. We want to make sure everybody has had a chance to comment [and] to explain their circumstances. We do not want it used as a crude weapon.”

10.20am More reaction to Lord Carter’s interim findings on NHS efficiency, as NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, says “the scope to realise efficiency savings using the current approaches is rapidly drying up”.

He added: “We therefore strongly welcome Lord Carter’s early work with 22 NHS providers to identify where there is scope for further efficiencies. We particularly welcome the data driven, sector led, bottom up, approach he is using.

“This work is starting to look at NHS efficiency in a different, more granular, more evidence based, way than ever before. It rightly focuses on the importance of eliminating unnecessary variation both within and between providers, recognising that some variation is both desirable and necessary.

Mr Hopson stresses the four factors highlighted by Lord Carter that will be key to realising savings of the type he has identified:

· There is ‘no one single action we can take’ – concerted management effort will be needed  in all providers across a wide range of different areas of activity

· This will take time – ‘we could look to savings of up to £5 billion per annum, but only “by 2019/20’

· The need for ‘management grip’. Our members tell us they do not have enough managers to do all three of restoring NHS finances and performance, transforming models of care and, now, realising these new types of efficiency

· The need for ‘quality data’, ‘metrics to measure relative performance’, and ‘adopting best practices and modern systems’, together with the need for greater management capacity, will require significant funding.

Mr Hopson added: “Perhaps most importantly of all, Lord Carter recognises the importance of securing local management commitment in each NHS trust to using this data effectively. This review must be seen as a valuable, sector led, management tool developed by providers, for providers.

“In Lord Carter’s own words ‘a regulatory approach will probably fail to capture the imagination and engagement of hospital boards’. We strongly endorse his view that the role of the Department of Health, NHS England, TDA and Monitor is to provide ‘support that [is] seen as helpful and non-directive’.”

10.00am Monitor and the TDA have announced plans to ‘join’ together under one chief executive.

The two organisations will not formally merge this year, a move some have called for. However, it is due to be announced today that they would be moving to work much more closely together, HSJ has been told.

They will work under a single chief executive. David Bennett, the current chief executive of Monitor, will begin overseeing the transition, but will step down as Monitor chief executive by the end of the year, HSJ understands.

Mr Bennett said in a message to foundation trust chief executives this morning: “After more than five years at the helm I have decided to step down from my role in Monitor. The government has decided that it wants to press ahead and establish a closer relationship between Monitor and TDA and so now is the right time for me to make the move.”

9.00am Lord Carter’s review into NHS efficiency has been published today and we will be updating you with all the reaction as it pours in.

NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said: “Lord Carter’s interim findings are crucial to understanding how costs might be brought down and we expect that the implementation of his review will be developed further with the sector, in the spirit it has been up to now. The potential savings need to be tested and developed with the wider NHS, so that final savings targets due to be handed to the NHS from September, are owned by the whole service.

“The NHS needs to demonstrate value for taxpayer money and, like any public service, there is always more that can be done to improve productivity. While it is fair to say waste exists in the NHS, it’s not true to say it is wasteful. In fact, data on spending and outcomes show the NHS is relatively efficient compared to other countries and our members’ efforts to reduce costs in the last parliament delivered almost £19 billion worth of savings.

“Of course, more can be done because any wasted resource could be better spent meeting the growing cost of delivering care to a rapidly increasing number of patients. Price variations are a particularly salient way of showing where costs might be saved, for example by reducing the number of product lines. We would be keen to also emphasise the benefits from collective action with providers bringing down costs through collaboration. This approach is a great way to build up networks that harness the purchasing power of the NHS, while also presenting opportunities for knowledge and expertise sharing beyond supply chains.”