As many as one in seven hospital procedures are unnecessary, leading to "profligate" waste in the health service, a senior NHS official has said.
Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, was quoted by The Sunday Telegraph as saying he estimated about ten or 15 per cent of treatments should not have been carried out.
"The waste is profligate in our system. I don't think we should be ashamed of pointing that out and certainly we shouldn't be ashamed of dealing with it," he said.
Research from NHS England suggests that many patients are being diagnosed with conditions they do not actually have, and that one-in-20 hospital admissions are a waste of money.
It comes as the NHS tries to make £22 billion of savings over the next five years in line with government targets.
According to NHS England, unnecessary operations and medication cost the NHS up to £1.8 billion a year.
The Telegraph cites Sir Bruce's analysis suggesting one-in-seven women are having unnecessary hysterectomies, the equivalent of about 6,600 hysterectomies a year.
A report from The King's Fund, a public health charity, notes another common incidence of 'overdiagnosis' as the over-prescribing of antibiotics as a cure for coughs and colds.
Antibiotics offer few benefits to patients with coughs or colds and prescribing them unnecessarily fuels antibiotic resistance.
The report, entitled 'Better value in the NHS', suggests further examples of inappropriate treatment that could be addressed if the NHS is to spend its £115 billion annual budget more efficiently.
Alongside overdiagnoses leading to unnecessary treatment the report suggests tackling under-diagnosis, where a patient is not given the recommended treatments that could improve their health, and medication errors which give rise to complications.