NHS wastes £40 billion every year!

Different parts of the NHS forever claim that they’re working to capacity – that they cannot cope without the injection of significantly more resources, funded by the taxpayer, not some ‘magic money tree’

But what is the capacity of each of these parts, and the total NHS?

Nobody knows – so the assumption is made that current capacity equals current volumes of in and out-patients dealt with – and the only way to significantly increase capacity, meet demand and reduce waiting times is to add yet more resources – more beds, doctors, nurses and facilities – taxpayers will surely not mind such an investment to benefit them

But this thinking is typical of the public sector – if results are not as expected or wanted, it must be because of lack of input resources – and nothing else

Few question whether current methods of working, processes and systems, could be improved – few compare their performances with best practices achieved by similar units who somehow manage things differently, cost less and achieve more

In particular, few realise how much they waste of their resources used and so costs incurred – most assume, because they’re working ‘flat-out’, that waste must be no more than say 1-2%

Imagine if they found out that it was some 30% or more, meaning they didn’t need any more funding to cope with current demand

And imagine what the public would say if they also knew waste was this high – equivalent to some £40 billion every year unnecessarily taken out of their pockets!

This is not scare-mongering by outsiders but considered views from insider experts

Professor Tim Briggs, a surgeon, says: “The NHS does not deserve more tax-payers’ money until it puts its house in order – there’s significant waste out there – we could do a lot more work with the money we have” – in particular:

  • There’s huge variations in the cost and quality of common treatments with low-performing hospitals routinely ignorant about superior methods adopted elsewhere
  • Some 300,000 patients a year are needlessly admitted to emergency surgery when they do not need an operation – if they were tested quickly, many could be sent home immediately
  • Some hospitals are paying 350 times more for basic surgical equipment than others for no apparent reason
  • There’s no consensus about best ways to carry out some common procedures
  • Infection rates after hip replacements are 25 times higher in some hospitals than others, greatly increasing unwanted demand and incurring huge extra costs
  • Hospitals tend to have no idea what others are doing – they’re even surprised when they find out they’re lagging others


Other experts have also identified major sources of NHS waste:

  • Stuart Rose, ex boss of Marks & Spencer, after a major review, concluded: “The NHS is drowning in bureaucracy”
  • Patrick Carter claimed hospitals are: “Wasting £5 billion a year paying too much for medical supplies and needless variations in care”
  • Steve Russell, MD of NHS Improvement, claimed: “The average surgery wastes two hours a day – bottlenecks are not identified so operations are not scheduled well – UK hospitals could carry out 750 more routine operations a day (i.e. at least 15% more)


On top of this waste cost, existing staff are now also grumbling about their need to be paid more – so that’s even more tax-payers’ money needed just to stand still whilst the above waste persists

Philip Hammond, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, has thus entered the fray and reportedly told Jeremy Hunt, UK Health Secretary: “If NHS staff want a pay rise, they must improve their productivity to pay for it”

About time too

NHS staff are right to seek a pay rise – they haven’t had one of any significance for years now

But NHS management have some explaining to do – they require their staff to follow current wasteful and disjointed procedures/ methods that they have defined – and staff work hard and long hours doing just that, despite so much waste being involved

The good news is the enormously successful NHS has this potential to do so much more without any more inputs or taxpayers’ cash – if only its top management could realise it



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