How has the productivity of UK health care changed between 1997 and 2015?

27 April 2018

  • Between 1997 and 2015, productivity across the UK NHS grew by 16%, at an average of around 1% per year.
  • This is higher than the total productivity of the public sector (1%) but lower than that of the whole UK economy (21%).
  • However, since 2010, productivity growth has been higher in the health care sector that in the whole economy, growing at an average annual rate of 2%, compared to 1% in the whole economy.

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Productivity in the health care sector refers to the ratio of outputs to inputs (goods, services and capital) used to produce care (ONS 2018). Growth in productivity allows for more care to be delivered as less inputs are required for each unit of output.

Since 1997, productivity growth in health care has grown slower than productivity in the whole economy, but faster than public service productivity. However, since 2010, productivity in UK NHS has been growing faster than the whole economy (ONS 2018). As productivity is 16.1% higher in 2015 than in 1997, 16.1% more outputs can be delivered for each input in 2015 than in 1997 (ONS 2018). This compared to 20.6% in the whole economy.

Our publication, A year of plenty examined the drivers of consultant productivity within acute hospitals in England, finding that productivity was positively associated with the level of specialisation in hospitals, a higher proportion of nurses in the workforce, and not being a teaching hospital.



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Data sources and figure also uses:

Further reading

Research report

A year of plenty?

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