A Yorkshire primary care trust chair is trying to drive up public awareness of the cost of services delivery by spelling out how much individual treatments cost.

NHS East Riding of Yorkshire chair Karen Knapton told HSJ: “Explaining what a primary care trust does by using our aggregate budget means little to the general public - it sounds like a lot of money and people think there is enough for everybody.”

As a result, when in talks with outside groups she and fellow East Riding board members have begun personalising the PCT’s budget by presenting it as per adult served in the community - in this case around £1,400 per year - and according to the cost of each service (see box).

“A lot of people are surprised when they see the figures. They expect to have the right to have treatment, and successful operations, but don’t think beyond that… they don’t understand how the system works,” Ms Knapton said.

“This is about promoting awareness of costs, and highlighting some of the unnecessary admissions to hospitals.”

It was particularly pertinent given pressure to find significant savings, she said.

“If we can avoid unnecessary admissions then that gives us more money for elsewhere. The aim is to get people going to the most appropriate place, whether it’s their GP, pharmacist or accident and emergency,” she said.

The board is also using the cost data to demonstrate the scope for efficiencies with staff groups. For example, Ms Knapton said someone with a chronic chest problem may go into A&E up to 20 times a year, with each visit costing the PCT around £1,800.

But helping them measure their own blood oxygen levels, and supporting them through a community respiratory team, reduces costs, empowers the patient, and improves their clinical outcome, she said.

The need to better demonstrate the cost of NHS services to the public was one of the rare areas the parties appeared to achieve complete consensus on before the election.

Speaking at a health hustings event, former Tory health spokesman Mark Simmonds said there was a need to “explore making sure people do understand the respective costs of the choice of services that they have”, while former Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb suggested the price of drugs should be put on prescriptions.

Former health secretary Andy Burnham said: “Perhaps when people get their letter calling them for their [treatment] placement, the tariff price on the letter might not be a bad thing, because it then tells people this is the value of the NHS treatment you are receiving.”

Examples of costs used by PCT

  • A&E attendance - £59
  • Deliver a baby - £1,174 (no complications)
  • Caesarean section - £2,579 (no complications)
  • Primary hip replacement - £5,826
  • Coronary bypass - £7,851