Elderly female patient in wheelchair with nurse

New report shows how the NHS can enhance patient care and save millions

The health service could not only improve patient care, but also save itself millions of pounds in the process, a new report has revealed.

The research comes from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and brings together findings from seven separate studies that have all identified ways in which the NHS can deliver significant savings as well as healthcare quality improvements.

The seven research revelations include:

  1. Evidence that a model of domiciliary care called hospital at home didn’t lead to a higher mortality rate after six months or a year in comparison to standard health setting-based care. Both patients and their carers preferred the home model of care over a hospital, with people also less likely to be admitted to a care home. The estimated savings in relation to the NHS, personal social care and informal care costs would amount to around £3,071 per patient;
  2. How a type of online cognitive behavioural therapy was just as effective as the face-to-face version, whilst also being much cheaper, with the latter costing £729 and the former just £277;
  3. The fact that drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, which are used to treat persistent throat symptoms, offer no benefit over placebo alternatives and should therefore not be prescribed. This could not only reduce the number of patients experiencing unwanted and unnecessary side-effects, but it could also save the NHS up to £4m per annum;
  4. A trial that found anti-clotting medicine was just as effective on its own as it was when used in conjunction with compression stockings, which could lead to annual savings of approximately £63m for the NHS in England, as well as less discomfort for patients;
  5. A study that discovered how moulded plaster casts were a secure and cost-efficient substitute to surgery for distal radius fractures. Clinicians found that the casts were just as effective as wire surgery for most patients and, regardless of which approach was taken, wrist pain and function were similar. Increased use of the casts could help the fight against backlog by boosting surgical activity and expanding capacity, whilst also delivering hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of savings;
  6. Using cheaper and older anticoagulation in intensive care units was cheaper and just as good when treating kidney patients. A study found that the switch to the newer citrate anticoagulation offered no benefit to those staying with heparin anticoagulation – maintaining the use of heparin could save the health service £2,376 per patient;
  7. Reducing follow-ups and unnecessary clinical tests for straightforward hip and knee surgeries in the one to 10-year period could save the NHS money whilst also increasing bandwidth for specialists so they can treat more patients.

NIHR Chief Executive, Professor Lucy Chappell, said: “The NHS provides an extremely broad range of important services, and NHS staff provide high quality care and support in so many different ways and settings. Our research often helps to find new treatments, but it can also tell us when we can provide better care that also saves costs, allowing us to focus on reaching more patients.

“The recommendations in today’s report can help our NHS colleagues work to provide the best care possible, underpinned by research. Patients can use this information to understand more about the choices that they are offered; for example, some older people might prefer to be cared for at home if they become unwell, rather than being admitted to hospital, and others may prefer to avoid an operation for a wrist fracture, rather than have surgery. This report shows how we can understand the benefits of doing so, for patients, service users and NHS staff.”

The report’s author and NIHR Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jemma Kwint, added: “We want to help the NHS make the best use of research to provide value for money and better care for patients. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to make cost savings without compromising the high quality of care that the NHS delivers.”

To read the full evidence collection, click here.

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