The NHS could save £5bn through reducing variation in the delivery of hospital services, according to the Department of Health, with ophthalmology, orthoptics and optometry saving a potential £117m.
In an announcement this week (20 October), Lord Carter made the call as part of a review into the delivery of services, with 137 hospital trusts in England receiving detailed plans of how they can improve patient care and become more efficient.
According to Lord Carter, the billions in potential savings could be made by reducing the variation in the way services are delivered and improving the way patients are cared for.
The review breaks down potential savings by speciality, with the top specialities including general medicine (£381m), obstetrics and gynaecology (£362m) and trauma and orthopaedics (£286m).
As part of the process, Professor Tim Briggs has been appointed as the national director for clinical quality and efficiency and is reported to be tasked with reviewing a number of specialities, including ophthalmology.
Lord Carter said: “Our best hospitals offer patients an excellent service and they are up there with the very best in the world and we want to make sure all NHS hospitals meet these high standards of care.”
He added: “The route to better care is to empower NHS leaders, so giving them the data and support they need means they can improve how they care for patients [and] make savings which can be reinvested in frontline care. Patients will be the real winners.”
The sight loss sector has welcomed the news, with the managing director of engagement for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Fazilet Hadi, commenting: “We welcome the appointment of Professor Tim Briggs and the announcement that he will lead a review into improving the efficiency of hospital eye care services,” adding: “this review could not be more timely.”
Ms Fazilet added: “Staff in eye clinics are being asked to do ever more with the same resources and this is putting huge pressures on the system. All hospital eye departments must get behind this review and improve services for their patients.”
The announcement comes in the wake of last week’s report by NHS watchdog Monitor, which picked out ophthalmology as one of the services in which hospitals could make huge efficiency savings.
The report found that more than £48m could be saved in cataract treatments, with post-operative follow ups provided by optometrists. It also highlighted an estimated £24.2m in savings in the treatment of macular degeneration through expanding the role of nursing staff and extending clinic opening times.