Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 13:30 UK

NHS sees annual productivity fall

Hospital staff with patient
Having enough staff to deal with patients quickly 'can affect productivity'

The NHS has seen a year-on-year fall in productivity despite the billions of pounds of investment in the service, latest figures show.

The data from the Office for National Statistics showed a fall of 2% a year from 2001 to 2005 across the UK.

A leading economist said the figures were a consequence of having extra doctors and nurses in the system.

But the Tories said they showed that spending more money on the NHS was not the answer.

An earlier report from the ONS showed NHS productivity fell by between 0.6% and 1.3% a year from 1995 to 2004.

Productivity is measured, not just through how many people are treated, but through short term survival and health gains after treatment and by assessing patients' experiences.

'What people want'

Martin Weale of the National Institute of Social and Economic Research, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are measuring productivity as well as we can, but there still has to be a question of whether we're taking account of quality improvement properly."

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Mr Weale, who is soon to take charge of the ONS body which puts together productivity reports added: "What they reflect is that people want, or politicians think people want an NHS with more nurses around and more doctors around who can see people quickly.

"And if you have that, then inevitably the amount of treatment, the number of patients treated per doctor and nurse does tend to decline."

But he added: "Whether people are happy to have lots of extra doctors and nurses around given what it's costing is a different matter."

Frontline resources

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Ten years ago people died waiting for operations, today waiting lists are at the lowest ever. The NHS is treating more patients, treating them faster and treating them more safely

When people are asked, their experience of the NHS has improved
Department of Health spokesman

"There are 280,000 more doctors, nurses and other essential staff working for the NHS than in 1997 and all NHS staff have enjoyed well deserved pay rises.

"Most importantly when people are asked, their experience of the NHS has improved."

But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the ONS figures showed that spending more money on the NHS didn't necessarily deliver the service the public wanted.

He added: "If we're going to achieve the results that we want, we've got to focus very firmly on ensuring that the resources we provide get to the frontline, that they aren't absorbed in bureaucracy, that the staff that we employ are actually engaged principally in patient care."


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