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NHS must stop making excuses and improve patient care, Jeremy Hunt says

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 02/06/2015 By Steven Swinford Deputy Political Editor

NHS must stop making excuses and improve patient care, Jeremy Hunt says © Rex Features NHS must stop making excuses and improve patient care, Jeremy Hunt says The NHS must improve patient care and stop making excuses about a lack of funding after the government committed to giving it an extra £8billion a year, the health secretary says today.

In an article for The Telegraph, Mr Hunt says that the health service has the money it needs and must now "deliver its side of the bargain" and make "substantial and significant" savings.

He says that the police have managed to cut crime significantly with reduced funding and called on hospitals to do the same by increasing standards of patient care while becoming more efficient. 

It comes amid concerns about lengthening waiting times and rising numbers of hospitals missing targets to start treatment for cancer patients within two months.

Mr Hunt has ordered a clampdown on "exorbitant" fees of up to £3,500 a shift charged for temporary doctors and nurses and accused staffing agencies of "ripping off" hospitals. 

The strict new rules will introduce a maximum hourly rate for agency doctors and nurses, ban the use of agencies that are not approved, and put a cap on total agency staff spending for every NHS trust in financial difficulty.

The Tories will also require hospitals to seek approval for spending more than £50,000 on management consultants while limiting excessive pay for executives.

The Conservatives have committed to meeting demands from the NHS bosses for an extra £8billion a year worth of funding by 2020. In return, health service bosses have agreed to £22billion worth of efficiency savings.

Mr Hunt argues that the safest hospitals are the most efficient and that it is "no coincidence" that the best in the world have the "healthiest" finances.

In his article Mr Hunt says: "The government has pledged at least £8billion more to help the NHS's own plan to transform services, including a seven-day operating offer that would cut the unacceptably high mortality rates for those admitted at weekends.

"But with that commitment from taxpayers, the time for debating whether or not it is enough is over. The NHS now needs to deliver its side of the bargain, which is to make significant efficiency savings.

"Can we really afford the kind of care we all want? It is an understandable worry with an ageing population, rising consumer expectations and tight public finances.

"With a strong economy, the answer is yes - but only if we care as much about every pound the NHS spends as every patient it treats. Because money wasted is money that can't be spent on those needing care."

His intervention comes after an investigation by The Telegraph revealed that the revenue of Britain's 10 biggest medical recruiters rose by more than 40 per cent over three years, with companies posting £7.7billion takings since 2009.

Official figures show that NHS spending on temporary workers has reached a record £3.3billion high, and “catastrophic” levels of debt are being blamed on last year’s rise in agency bills.

NHS reports last month revealed an £822million deficit across the health service, blamed entirely on spiraling agency spending. Some trusts have spent up to £3,500 a shift for doctors.

In his article, Mr Hunt pledges to "wean the NHS off the understandable but growing addiction to temporary staffing" in the wake of a series of hospital scandals.

Hospitals will also be required to seek approval from regulators for spending more than £50,000 on management consultants to ensure "money is directed at patients rather than bureaucracy".

Mr Hunt compared the drive for efficiency savings to the airline industry, which has halved the cost of travel at the same time as halving aviation deaths, and police cuts under the Coalition which have seen crime fall.

He says that the principles of Nye Bevan, the founding father of the NHS, are the same as those on which the Conservative party weas built.

NHS spending: how temporary staff keep the health service going
Only a big increase in NHS funding will guarantee David Cameron's legacy

He says: "It embodies the spirit of one nation, the compassionate country this government is trying to built, where we look out for each other and provide support for everyone who needs it.

"As Gary Kaplan, the visionary doctor who runs Virginia Mason hospital [one of the safest in the world] says: 'The path to safer care is the same as the path to lower cost.' Safety and sustainability go together, and I want the NHS to blaze a trail for both across the World."

Many NHS trusts have become entirely reliant on temporary workers. Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day more than half the shifts in some Accident and Emergency departments were worked by locum medics.

The Royal College of Nursing has said too few nurses were being trained in this country, forcing NHS trusts to pay inflated sums, to prevent dangerous levels of short-staffing.

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