The BMJ Today: Get your sums right

The big news today is the publication of the chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens’s five year plan for the NHS.

As Gareth Iacobucci reports in The BMJ today, the report has a strong focus on public health and the prevention of illness. Unsurprisingly, this includes Stevens’s pet topic of tackling obesity.

Stevens claims the report marks a “crossroads” for the NHS. It calls for the historical boundaries between primary and secondary care to be broken down and for new models of care to be developed, such as NHS hospitals taking control of general practice services or GPs heading up multispecialty provider groups.

But, like all plans for change in the NHS, the real question has to be: how can this all be paid for? The report claims that its recommendations would reduce the identified £30bn shortfall, which the NHS is expected to face by saving £22bn. However, it also calls for an additional £8bn investment from the next government to maintain services.

But how far can we trust these costs predications? Well, not far at all if they are anything like health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s claims about the cost of the NHS reorganisation.

As Kieran Walshe reports, the health secretary’s claims of costs and savings are not what they seem.

Hunt has claimed that the NHS reorganisation, recently described as “unintelligible gobbledygook” by a Dowing Street source, cost £1.5bn to implement but had saved £1bn a year in NHS administrative costs. When pressed to support these figures, rather worryingly, the Department of Health press office pointed towards Hunt’s own words in Hansard on 22 July 2014 when he claimed savings of £1.5bn a year.

For the detail on how this is all worked out, or otherwise, I recommend you read the piece, which makes the figures easy to understand. The upshot is that Hunt’s cost predictions for the reorganisation are “at best unjustifiably optimistic,” and his predictions for savings “pretty unlikely, to say the least.”

 Abi Rimmer is BMJ Careers news reporter.