efficiency programmes can still work, comparative data is key


By John Hughes, Marketing

Much was made in the media on 21 October of Lord Carter’s plan for £22bn of savings by 2020 across the NHS. It is an ambitious plan that focuses on reducing inefficiencies in procurement and staffing rosters. Lord Carter has been benchmarking the cost of procurement and the potential annual savings of £5bn a year savings he believes are possible, it understandably grabbed the headlines.

Benchmarking is something that you can use to identify ways to help save money, not just in procurement but all of your back office services.

Relevant to you

CIPFA’s VfM Indicators benchmark seven key corporate functions; Communications, Estates Management, Finance, Human Resources, ICT, Legal and Procurement. These were carefully selected by UK’s public sector audit agencies after extensive road testing and were part of the efficiency programme led by Sir Peter Gershon. A range of public sector bodies helped shape them and the NHS were instrumental in making sure they added value to their performance and improvement programmes.

Focused approach  

These indicators benchmark the value for money and performance of your corporate services with a level of detail that really helps you understand how you compare to similar NHS trusts. And with £22bn of savings to deliver, the NHS needs to be sure that all areas are delivering best value. With a range of service delivery options available such as shared services and collaborative working, how do you know how your corporate services compare?


One of the core principles of the indicators, is that armed with robust comparative data, you can start to improve performance. This will often mean transforming a function and embracing innovation to do so.

A few years ago NESTA* piloted a survey with Local Government and the NHS to find out how these two sectors were embracing innovation. Evidence showed that the NHS was doing marginally more and had appetite for change, but across the board these projects were hindered by a lack of data. VfM indicators will give you data to support this process.


Lord Carter’s June report highlighted staffing costs and the indicators are showing some interesting trends relating to people working in the public sector. In 2011/12 the average number of days lost to sickness was 9.3, in 2013/14 this figure has dropped to an average of just 8 days. The percentage of staff over 50 has risen in the same period from 22% to 32.5%. Of course, you will want to understand what has caused these changes. Are your staff fitter? Has a free flu jab had an impact on sick days? If your staff are staying in post longer then there will hopefully be a cost saving in both recruitment and agency cover.

We are here to help

If you want to transform your corporate services to be more effective and offer greater value for money then come to the experts, sign up now, or find out more.

* Nesta is an independent charity that works to increase the innovation capacity of the UK.