A new report out today says doctors have an ethical duty to prevent waste in the NHS.
The study, by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, claims there are potential cost savings of nearly £2bn through improved practices.
Sixteen examples of changes to clinical practice, which have saved money and benefited patients, are highlighted.
I would argue the focus needs to go far beyond the clinical side of the NHS and into core frontline services such as housekeeping and catering, where many millions more could be saved and improve the quality of the service on offer.
In housekeeping changes need to be made to stock control systems to avoid unnecessary waste of cleaning products. Usage needs to be monitored per area and at issue. For instance, rubbish bins are often changed regardless of content – or even lack of!
And many times staff are cleaning an already clean and unused area simply because it is on their work schedule. Office areas are also often over cleaned when there is no need.
On the catering side meal orders for discharged patients are not being cancelled and often the same quantity of food is being sent to the wards regardless of orders placed.
Personally I have experienced the issue of wrong foods in hospital and the waste that this causes when my daughter Annabel was recently admitted.
Annabel had one arm strapped up and the other with drip feeds so had little mobility. In such circumstances lunch was a challenge with the bread roll in a wrapper and hot soup with lid, the sandwich in another wrapper and the hot pudding with a lid to be lifted. The actual food was fine and at least the challenge of trying to eat lunch raised a smile but the waste was high – the wrong foods for the condition.
We needed one hand meals as the care assistants were not available. On the other hand, income opportunities were lost with the snack vending machine poorly stocked with a number of lines empty – simple to fix but lost income.
The health secretary has said he is “determined to tackle unavoidable harm in healthcare”. I would argue he needs to look at the broader organisation to get a real grip on the billions that are wasted each year. The solution is not more money but truly smarter working practices.