Sharing examples of success is helpful and is also where we have seen trusts reduce costs and improve value, writes Ben James

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This comment is sponsored by Hunter Healthcare

The challenge of finding £22bn in efficiency savings by 2020-21 has inevitably refocused efforts on improving productivity.

However, doing more for less is never easy and the situation is compounded by existing deficits. All acute hospital trusts are now set to end the financial year in the red.

According to a recent poll by the Healthcare Financial Management Association, 88 per cent of chief finance officers and finance directors said they were not confident their trusts could deliver the 2-3 per cent annual productivity gains outlined in the Five Year Forward View to realise the £22bn of efficiency savings.

It’s imperative that every organisation gets a running start on the next financial year

The senior NHS leaders we have spoken to are pleased additional funding has been made available, but with additional pension costs and existing trusts deficits, the reality is there will be little extra cash to invest. This emphasises the importance of working within existing budgets.

There are examples of successful cost reductions and large-scale cost improvements and yet many organisations still struggle. This can happen for many reasons such as a lack of operational grip, managerial and clinical disengagement and ineffective leadership.

We have some clients that bought in specialist cost improvement support over 18 months ago to ensure they delivered the 2015-16 target and prepared adequately for 2016-17.

These organisations are now seeing the benefits of this early action. It’s imperative that every organisation gets a running start on the next financial year, rather than ending up fire-fighting in 12 months’ time. Yet so few organisations prioritise this.

Extensive spending on management consultancies is seen as the thing to do but often delivery is found wanting.

There are undoubtedly opportunities to get better value from the NHS budget. Sharing examples of success is helpful and is also where we have seen trusts reduce costs and improve value.

They have often followed in the footsteps of others – or listened and adapted what they have found. This takes less time than waiting for home-grown initiatives to work and can be just as rewarding.

Ben James is founding director, Hunter Healthcare