Surgical masks and robotic operations are a needless waste of NHS money, researchers from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College have said, after identifying changes the health service can make to save more than £150 million each year. They found 71 commonly performed procedures or practices that are of high-cost but low-value to patients, which could be stopped.
The procedures include hernia repair operations for people with few symptoms, which currently cost the NHS £28 million a year, but do little to make people feel better. Likewise using CT scans to diagnose appendicitis was found to have little benefit above and beyond the traditional blood tests and hands-on pressure checks by doctors. Scrapping them could save the health service four million pounds, the report found.
The team also discovered that robotic surgery has ‘little or no advantage’ when compared with traditional keyhole operations and said it must be ‘considered a candidate for disinvestment.’ There is also no evidence to show that infections can be prevented by surgical masks, even though they cost the health service £150,000 a year.
Writing in the British Journal of Surgery surgeon and lead researcher, Humza Malik, said: “An expected £30 billion funding gap is expected by 2020 in the NHS. This provides motivation to identify and reduce the use of healthcare interventions that deliver little benefit and which could be substituted with less costly alternatives without affecting safety, and quality of care.
“The intention was to identify general surgical procedures or interventions that are currently employed as a result of established practice, or previously published guidance, that more recently published research has found to be ineffective. Stopping low-value services represents a significantly greater opportunity for efficiency savings than thought previously.”