The Public Accounts Committee conducts a short inquiry each year into the sustainability and financial performance of acute hospitals in England.

Our evidence to the committee summarised our research into the deteriorating financial performance of NHS providers since 2012/13, which has seen an increasing proportion of NHS trusts and foundation trusts reporting a financial deficit. 

We also set out recent trends in the NHS’s productivity. For example, our analysis found that the acute sector only managed to improve productivity an average of 0.4% a year over the last parliament. While productivity across the NHS as a whole has grown at a faster rate, this trend is significantly below the 2-3% required to fill the funding gap described in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

There is plenty of scope for the NHS to improve productivity but, as we say in our evidence, most of the one-off savings have already been made. Finding recurrent (year-on-year) savings will require those at the front line to change the way care is delivered. However, NHS staff need the capacity, skill and headspace in order to do this – all of which are at a premium in the present climate.

Further reading