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Lib Dems: no 'slash and burn' job cuts

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Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb has assured nurses it will be possible to make the huge efficiency savings required in the NHS without resorting to “slash and burn” job cuts.

Speaking to Nursing Times after a debate with health secretary Andy Burnham and Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley last week, Mr Lamb said making £15bn-£20bn of NHS savings will be achievable through better hospital practices and reduced waste.

The £15bn-£20bn is the figure NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson has previously estimated the NHS will need to save over the next three years, as a result of the public sector spending squeeze.

Mr Lamb told Nursing Times: “The whole objective… it’s difficult but I think achievable… is to avoid slash and burn of services and consequently the jobs that go with it.”

During the debate he had said: “The important thing is we don’t cut jobs where it really matters to frontline care.”

Asked by Nursing Times whether a decision to cut or freeze 100 nursing posts by a trust, for example, would amount to “slash and burn”, he suggested he would oppose reductions on this scale.  

He said: “My immediate response to it… you have to look at each individual case, but… it looks like they’re going about the whole process in the wrong way.”

It would be up to each trust to set out their case for changing services, he added, but warned managers not to put cuts ahead of patient care.

Mr Lamb said: “Make the business case but make the clinical case as well, and be smarter in what you’re trying to do. Don’t go for the easy hits which sometimes damage patient care.”

The Liberal Democrats hope to make further savings by adopting the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement’s “better care, better value” indicators, which it is estimated could save £3.6bn a year. These involve 12 areas of hospital practice, such as improved admission and discharge processes and a reduction in emergency readmissions.

The Liberal Democrats would also scrap strategic health authorities. Mr Lamb’s personal blueprint for the health service, published in February, suggested the annual saving would be close to £130m.

The party has also calculated that reducing PCT administration and management costs to 2005-06 levels would save £800m.

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