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5,500 managers would be cut under Conservatives’ primary care plan

Published on: 3 Jun 2024

The Conservatives have announced they would cut a further 5,500 NHS managers from organisations not providing “frontline patient care” to fund an expansion of primary and community services. 

Yesterday the party announced that if re-elected it would expand “Pharmacy First”, under which the public can obtain more prescriptions from pharmacists, bypassing the need to see GPs; “build or modernise 250 GP surgeries”; and “build 50 new community diagnostic centres”.

This would be “paid for by cutting back the number of NHS managers to pre-pandemic levels – by 5,500, saving £550m each year by 2029-30; and by introducing new controls on management consultancy spend in government, saving £640m each year by 2029-30 – almost £1.2bn in total”.

But the party’s announcement, part of it’s campaign ahead of the 4 July general election, added: “In recognition of the important role that managers play in supporting operational processes and relieving pressure on doctors’ and nurses’ time, we will focus these reductions in the NHS organisations which provide no frontline patient care.”

That would appear to leave large further reductions to be made in integrated care boards and NHS England and other arm’s length bodies, both of which have been making significant cuts recently. Most ICBs have been reducing posts in recent months, after government cut their admin budgets by 30 per cent. NHSE last month said it had cut about 7,000 posts over the past year or so; while the latest official figures show 3,500 fewer whole time equivalent staff as of January, leaving 19 per cent more than before covid. The Department of Health and Social Care had 76 per cent more WTE staff in January than pre-covid, but has taken in some public health functions.

The Conservatives added: ”We will also launch an immediate review of all management consultancy spend across government – which increased during the pandemic – including existing management consultancy contracts, and apply a new set of controls limiting the use of consultants to urgent or exceptional cases for the whole of the next Parliament.” They said this would save £640m a year by 2029-30. Consultancy spend grew steeply during covid, but has since significantly reduced.

The details of the plans include:

  • Expanding Pharmacy First “to offer women more contraceptive options, deliver menopause support, and provide treatment for more conditions, such as acne and chest infections… [to] free up 20 million GP appointments in total, once fully scaled”.
  • Build or modernise 250 GP surgeries – 100 new GP surgeries and 150 modernisations “focused on the areas of greatest need, and particularly those areas experiencing new housing growth”;
  • Build 50 new community diagnostic centres, in addition to 160 opened so far, “delivering a further 2.5m checks and diagnostic tests a year once scaled up”.

The statement adds: “As part of our plan to pay for the new GP surgeries, we will overhaul planning guidance to ensure health gets a bigger share of developer contributions from new housing developments.”

Health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Pharmacies, GPs and community diagnostic centres are the backbone of our NHS. Because of bold action we have taken, they are more accessible in more places for more people.”