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Revealed: 85% not confident NHS can hit £22bn savings target

Senior healthcare professionals warn over NHS performance and commissioning practice, but show hope for better use of technology, ahead of major UK Health Show

A widespread lack of confidence that the NHS can achieve its £22bn efficiency savings target by 2020 is amongst a mix of concerns that have been expressed by hundreds of UK healthcare professionals ahead of a major conference.

In what is set to be one of the largest one day gatherings of healthcare professionals in the UK, thousands of delegates are due to attend the UK Health Show in September to engage on issues crucial to the future of the NHS.

The survey of more than 400 senior individuals due to attend the event has now revealed anxieties on how NHS services are commissioned and deep concerns that the NHS cannot meet national efficiency targets put in place to allow the health service to cope with escalating demand. But the survey also revealed an anticipation that the use of technology in delivering better NHS services is set to improve.

In total 85% of those questioned in the survey said they were either “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that the health service is in a position to deliver the £22bn savings now expected across England by 2020, despite the state of NHS finances being seen as the single most important challenge facing the heath service.

The key finding follows warnings from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, that there is “not yet a convincing plan in place for closing the £22bn efficiency gap and avoiding a ‘black hole’ in the NHS finances”.

Many of those surveyed agreed that the overall performance of the NHS was presently good, but the practicality of national plans designed to urgently save the NHS money into the future was questioned. For example, the survey revealed that only one in 10 individuals were at least “fairly confident” that recommendations set out in Lord Carter’s recent review of NHS efficiency would be achieved.

More than four in five respondents rated the current performance of the NHS positively, however over half (56%) of the same group are pessimistic about the future of the NHS. With a third of respondents expressing disagreement that the commissioning of NHS services is currently carried out efficiently and effectively. Over a quarter (27%) expected commissioning to get worse.

But 74% believed the way technology is used in the NHS will improve over the next few years, an area that has become central to government and NHS England plans to integrate health and social care services, deliver better outcomes for patients and improve patient safety.

Underlying issues highlighted in the survey will be debated in depth at the newly launched UK Health Show on 28th September at London’s Olympia conference centre, which is now expected to be the largest gathering of healthcare professionals at a one day event anywhere in the UK.

Alexander Rushton, UK Health Show event director, said: “Delegates are coming to the UK Health Show to understand how they can address national priorities and their own local challenges that, collectively, underpin the future of the NHS. Despite expressing doubts over national targets, professionals attending the event recognise that changes can and must be made to improve care for patients and to ensure the NHS remains sustainable. Their presence at such a major healthcare event covering everything from technology through to commissioning, procurement, estates and cyber security, will provide an opportunity to listen to and directly engage with the UK’s healthcare leaders, who will be present to share and explain the latest developments in NHS strategy and policy.”

The conference will feature contributions from NHS England, Department of Health, Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC – soon to be NHS Digital), NICE, NHS Clinical Commissioners, the Care Quality Commission and Public Health England and will feature presentations from senior leaders across healthcare.

The UK Health Show is a merger of several large events on the healthcare calendar, including the well-established Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology (HETT) event, which has allowed innovative NHS uses of technology to be shared more widely. HETT has been combined with Commissioning in Healthcare, another key event in the sector, along with three entirely new conference streams on procurement, estates and cyber security, to provide a wide-reaching learning opportunity for NHS professionals in a single day.

Key speakers include Jim Mackey, chief executive of NHS Improvement; Dr Phil Moore, chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners Mental Health Network; Beverley Bryant, director of digital transformation at HSCIC; and Paul Rice, head of technology strategy, NHS England.