Primary care trusts could save more than £6.7m in five years by investing less than half that in measures to prevent ill health, according to an independent report commissioned by the government.

The report - Enabling Effective Delivery of Health and Wellbeing - is co-authored by Tower Hamlets primary care trust chief executive Alwen Williams, Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein and regional director of public health for East England Paul Cosford.

By increasing physical activity we can save more than a penny in every pound

The report forecasts that PCTs which invest £3.1m in measures to reduce rates of obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol intake will make net savings of £6.7m after five years - with £3.3m saved on alcohol related illnesses, £1.2m on smoking and £2.2m on obesity.

It recommends PCTs provide alcohol screening and appropriate intervention for patients with excessive drinking levels, expand smoking cessation services to include “hard to reach” groups, and target patients with a body mass index of over 30 to offer advice and support on weight management.

The report also outlines 15 recommendations for the NHS to help prevent ill health, including a vital sign indicator on health expectancy, metrics on smoking, alcohol, physical activity and diet, and an integrated commissioning model for health and wellbeing.

Speaking at the launch of the report and the government’s new tobacco strategy in London this week, health secretary Andy Burnham said preventing ill health was the “core business” of both the health service and the Department of Health.

“By increasing physical activity we can save more than a penny in every pound that the NHS spends and we could prevent one in nine deaths. For every £1 spent on preventive healthcare, £1.20 is saved,” he said.

HSJ is holding a conference on Achieving Savings and Efficiencies in the NHS on 10 February. See details at www.hsj-efficiencies.com

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