THE chief executive of the Countess of Chester Hospital says “difficult decisions” must be taken to meet the serious financial challenge ahead.
But Peter Herring, writing in his web blog, says plans to improve efficiency were already in place before the recession started to bite.
Mr Herring said: “All the information we have about future tariff increases and constraints on NHS growth points to the need for serious cost reductions across the NHS from 2010/11 onwards.
“We estimate at this stage a need to save in the order of 4% of our budget each year for the next three years, approximately £6m per year.
“As you can imagine it is tasking us at the moment to identify ways in which we can meet this sort of requirement and still maintain high quality services.”
Aside from the immediate financial constraints, Mr Herring says “substantial efficiency savings” are expected from the NHS to meet the long-term demands of a growing ageing population plus increases in wages and drug costs.
With this in mind, The Countess Way programme was set up to drive improvements and savings.
He explained: “If for, example, we can shave half a day off the average length of stay of each patient through ensuring speedier treatment and discharge then this could avoid in the order of £1.5m worth of recurrent cost.
“If we can reduce our use of energy, limit our reliance on bank and agency usage, reduce unnecessary diagnostic tests and so on – these are painless ways of achieving significant cost reductions.”
Mr Herring said ways are also being explored to see if regularly admitted patients can be better managed in the community to avoid costly hospital attendances.