The cost of government reforms to modernise the National Health Service is likely to overshoot original estimates by up to £400 million.

In a written parliamentary statement last week, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that the cost of implementing certain policies under the Health and Social Care Act will now likely fall in the £1.5 billion to £1.6 billion range.

This is some way above the £1.2 billion to £1.3 billion predicted in an earlier impact assessment by the Department of Health.

However, savings are still expected hit £1.5 billion a year from 2014-15, while cumulative savings over the transition period are now forecast to be £1 billion higher at £5.5 billion, Hunt said.

Still, the news has sparked anger amongst medical professionals. 

British Medical Association council chair Mark Porter called the costs "particularly galling" as patient services are being rationed and NHS reorganisation "was unnecessary".

Achieving the NHS savings target of £20 billion by 2015 "was always going to be a steep challenge, but it is being made even harder by the fact that time, energy and resources have been taken up by massive structural change," he said.

More fragmentation?

According to Porter, the reforms enshrined in Health and Social Care Act will likely lead to more service fragmentation, making it "much harder" to achieve savings, and he also doubted Hunt's £5.5 billion savings forecast.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, also slammed the reforms for being a "waste of money" and expressed fears that the related costs will "spiral further".

"We were concerned that there would be hidden costs involved in such a large reorganisation and it is becoming clear that the government has not properly estimated how much money this would cost," he said.