How has the productivity of UK health care changed between 1997 and 2016?

30 January 2019

  • Between 1997 and 2016, productivity across the UK NHS grew by 20%, 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 (1.2%).
  • 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 1.7%, compared to 0.5% in the whole economy.

Productivity in the health care sector refers to the ratio of outputs to inputs (goods, services and capital) used to produce care. 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 health care in the UK has been growing faster than the whole economy. From 2010 to 2016, productivity growth in UK public services health care has been 1.7%, compared to 0.5% for the whole economy. Since 2011, most of the growth in public services productivity is from health care.

As productivity is 20% higher in 2016 than in 1997, 20% more outputs can be delivered for each input in 2016 than in 1997. This compared to 26% in the whole economy.


Productivity measures differ between public services productivity and whole economy. Whole economy productivity is a measure of labour productivity, while public services productivity measures are estimates of multi-factor productivity.


Office for National Statistics 2019 data sources, including:

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