NHS Employers has put out a call to National Health Service trusts to avoid going down the redundancies road in a bid to save money as the pressure grows for mass efficiency savings to help counter the budget constraints ahead.

According to the group, the health service is looking to garner savings of around £20 billion between 2011 and 2014, at a time when demand on its facilities and resources is snowballing, but it has warned against turning to job cuts as a solution because it claims this is “a blunt and expensive tool the NHS can ill afford”.

NHS Employers’ new report Leading the NHS workforce through to recovery, launched at its annual conference this week, says lessons should be learnt from past cost-cutting exercises after which staff who were removed from one part of the NHS were often just re-employed in another area or indeed in the public sector, which, it says, “amounts to a poor use of public funds”.

Moreover, it claims that ‘slash and burn’ strategies designed to quickly free up cash savings through a reduction in salary and training budgets serve only “disengage staff in the short term and lead to skills gaps in the medium term” as well as depress morale, factors which can negatively affect productivity and efficiency of services.

In addition, the report stresses that the large-scale savings on which the NHS is so dependent on simply cannot be generated by merely “tweaking around the edges”, but requires a total transformation of the way in which health service organisations work instead, “with staff and patients central to this change”.

The NHS currently employs around 1.3 million and while the group concedes that staff cuts will be essential in generating savings, it argues that “this shouldn’t and can’t mean mass redundancies nationally” and that instead the emphasis must be on NHS boards to bring staff and stakeholders together for a united front in improving services while delivering better efficiency. “A focus on quality, safety and value for money will be paramount,” it says.

Looking for talent
Parallel to the new report NHS Employers also published a new briefing paper called Talent for tough times, which calls on trusts to sink more funds into talent management to boost NHS performance and help it survive the tightening purse strings.

Explaining the rationale, Sian Thomas, Director of NHS Employers, said: “An organisation is its staff. Success or failure will, in the end, come down to their competencies and skills”, and she stressed: “Given the tough financial climate we are now in we cannot afford not to invest in and make the most of the talent at our disposal”.