Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 01:20 UK

NHS managers 'too passive' to keep hospitals in check

Local health managers buy services from hospitals

Local health chiefs are too passive and are failing to keep hospitals in England in check, MPs say.

The bosses of primary care trusts (PCTs) are responsible for 80% of the £100bn NHS budget.

Among its criticisms, the Commons health committee said they did not do enough to make sure hospitals used the most up-to-date drugs and treatments.

The NHS Confederation, which represents health managers, said the report did not accurately reflect performance.

The theory is that by putting local managers in charge of the purse strings, they can make sure the right care is available for their residents.

The government must make a bold decision - if improvements fail to materialise, it could be time to blow the final whistle
Kevin Barron, committee chairman

This approach was adopted in 1991 and has been maintained since Labour won power in 1997.

But as well as casting doubt over their ability to manage the use of drugs and treatment, MPs said the managers working for the 152 PCTs did not have the right skills and knowledge to get the most cost-effective care out of hospitals.

It means the goal of moving basic care out of hospitals and into the community, where it is cheaper and more convenient to access, is being threatened, their report said.

The committee said constant reorganisations and high turnover of staff were partly to blame and urged the government to give managers more support.

It was also highly critical of the government for the "appalling" failure to provide accurate figures for how much is spent.

An unpublished report by York University suggested administration and management could account for nearly 14% of spending, but it is unclear what exactly this covers.

Committee chairman Kevin Barron said it was a "sorry story".

"The government must make a bold decision - if improvements fail to materialise, it could be time to blow the final whistle."

Steve Barnett, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health managers, said he did not feel the report was an accurate reflection of performance.

"We continue to believe that the current system designed to achieve value for money and hold organisations to account has been beneficial for NHS patients."

The report comes after figures last week showed the number of managers in the NHS had soared by 80% in the past decade.

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