Hospital leagues to force cost cuts

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The Independent Online
HIGH SPENDING National Health Service hospitals are to be required to cut their costs after figures revealed the expense of a hip replacement varied from pounds 2,000 to pounds 8,000.

Health minister Alan Milburn announced yesterday that all NHS trusts would be ranked according to the cost of treatments in a new set of league tables aimed at improving efficiency. Average costs would be established for each treatment and targets set for hospitals.

On Tuesday, Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, announced league tables of death rates aimed at improving the quality of NHS care. The moves are part of a drive to make the NHS more open and accountable and have been made necessary by the ending of competition between trusts which previously provided the lever to keep costs down and standards up.

The first cost league tables, to be published next August, will include all surgical and some medical treatments. Mr Milburn said hospitals would be "comparing not competing".

Examples of variations include the cost of a cataract operation, which averages pounds 600 but can be over six times more expensive in some areas than others, and the cost of treating in-patients with chronic bronchitis, which ranges from pounds 100 to pounds 600 a day.

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