Why does unwarranted variation matter?

The NHS serves a million patients every 36 hours, spending over £120bn annually. While the NHS benefits from some of the best local and organisational leadership and innovation, there is also widespread unwarranted variation which affects patient outcomes, service costs and overall productivity.

In February 2016, Lord Carter’s report on unwarranted variation in acute NHS trusts was published. It highlighted the opportunity to save up to £5bn if unwarranted variation can be tackled and all providers’ cost bases were at the median level.

Find out more about the Lord Carter review (Click here) >

Some variation is warranted

  • The NHS is not monolithic
  • Local needs and priorities shape services
  • Innovative approaches are helpful

Some is unwarranted

  • Patient outcome vary
  • Clinical practice can be different across areas
  • Providers’ costs for similar items also range widely

Raising performance improves quality and efficiency

  • Greater productivity often leads to better care
  • If all providers’ cost bases were at the median level, the total savings would be more than £5billion
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