The department said the NHS may be wasting millions of pounds a year because hospitals and providers are not incentivised to cut the cost of drugs that fall outside of the Payment by Results tariff.
Ministers want GP commissioners to work with hospitals to reduce the bill for high-cost ‘homecare’ treatments, which now cost the NHS at least £1.25bn. This figure is rising by 20% per year.
But last year University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust saved around £4m by reviewing its homecare spending, suggesting similar efforts across the NHS could save hundreds of millions of pounds.
Homecare treatments are hospital-prescribed medicines supplied directly to patients’ homes. Prices are negotiated locally because they fall outside of the national Payment by Results tariff.
But a DH report produced as part of the NHS efficiency savings drive suggested the NHS may be wasting money ‘paying for more expensive treatments where equally effective but cheaper alternatives are available’. It said this may be due to the lack of a financial incentive for commissioners and providers to reduce treatment costs.
The DH has appointed Mark Hackett, chief executive of University Hospital Southampton and author of a 2011 report into homecare medicines, to lead a project aiming ‘to maximise efficiency and value for NHS budgets’ relating to homecare treatments.
In a letter to hospital chiefs, he warned that these costs are set to accelerate unless the NHS takes action.
He added: ‘We will be seeking to engage with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to ensure that these efficiencies are maximised in 2013/14.’
The DH says the report will help commissioners and providers when ensuring patients can access NICE-approved treatments under the NHS Constitution.
Earlier this year a GP magazine investigation found the NHS may fail to hit efficiency targets because hospitals' efforts to control drug spending are decades behind those in primary care.