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Understaffing to blame for NHS productivity drop, says health minister


A 3.3% drop in productivity in healthcare has been caused by understaffing and a lack of funding, according to health minister Mike O’Brien.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that NHS productivity fell by 3.3% between 1995 and 2008.

Mr O’Brien, said: “In 1997, the NHS was severely understaffed and under-funded. We have had to address this understaffing and that has affected productivity.”

The data found a mismatch between inputs and outputs, leading to an annual productivity fall of 0.3% on average.

This means there was a drop in the amount of NHS activity for every pound spent on publicly funded healthcare, mainly the NHS.

Inputs refer to the volume of goods and services, including clinical supplies, and spend on staff including nurses, doctors and support workers. Healthcare inputs grew by 75%, averaging 4.4% growth a year, the ONS data showed.

But healthcare output grew by just 69% overall, averaging 4.1% growth a year.

From 1995 to 2001, productivity was broadly stable as output and inputs grew at a similar pace, the ONS said.

But from 2001 to 2008 productivity declined as inputs grew more quickly than outputs every year except 2005 and 2006.

Productivity in 2008 is estimated to have fallen by 0.7%, compared with a fall of 0.3% in 2007.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Staff across the NHS and the public know that too much money in the NHS has been wasted, that there is too much bureaucracy and the resources have not got to the front line.

“The Conservatives will not only protect the NHS budget but will ensure that resources actually get to the front line. We will focus spending on improving results for patients.”


Readers' comments (6)

  • Jon Harvey

    No chance that the 'purchaser provider split' might actually push productivity down and numbers of managers & bureaucracy up, I suppose?

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  • Martin Gray

    Then listen to what the clinicians are telling you and get rid of ineffective and costly management tiers that do nothing except spout rubbish and justify this with statistics!

    Clinician morale is at an all time low, and the fact that there has been a quite significant increase in the number of managers within the past few years just sickens us even more. DO SOMETHING POSITIVE AND PRACTICAL to reduce wastage, not just quote statistics.

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  • So they sprayed billions at the NHS and service actually got worse. That's something for us all to think about. 24 hours to save the NHS? Not again.

    Any party brave enough to put a bullet in this bloated and diseased beast once and for all would get my vote.

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  • Martin Gray

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the NHS system except for the way it is being managed. I agree is has turned into a 'money pit' and the political parties promise more money to 'improve' services. This has only led to an increase in the number of managers but nothing else changes, except targets of course!

    But what is the alternative to an NHS system? Should we all pay for private medical and dental insurance as they do in other countries? The 'beast' may be 'bloated with disease' but this can be cured rather than 'put down'. Yes it will take bravery, sacrifice, and disruption - but isn't change what is supposed to occur when things don't work as planned?

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  • I'm happy to pay tax but not for the government to provide the services and then tell me they are the best services in the world. Apart from all the disasters, and the rampant MRSA and the waiting lists and the 400 dead in Stafford and all the staff who hate their jobs. Apart from that it's the best system in the world.

    Alternatively I'll pay into a private healthcare insurance scheme and have the service provided by the state.

    It's model conceived for a society after the second world war that can't work in the 21st century. We're no longer happy to be told to shut up and sit down and be grateful for whatever we get. No amount of tinkering with it will make it fit for purpose as the last 13 years have demonstrated quite ably.

    Do you really need to spend millions on management consultants to come up with new ideas on how to make it work?
    Easy, make every one in it directly responsible for their actions. If your a poor nurse / doctor/ manager then your gone.

    And you can't do this if it's centrally administered top down system because there is no fiscal connection between the incompetent practitioner and the patient.

    As to the issue of cost - it costs about a 5th of your tax's to pay for at the moment.

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  • I continue to argue that the managers of the NHS don't do much to establish morale or even boost positivity schemes amongst staff members. I hear from fellow nurses that they are bullied from other staff members. They are stuck sometimes with a bullying, and brass behavior from members with seniority. The frustrating beings should do something else. I don't understand why the Health Minister himself doesn't monitor discriminating behavior, managerial positions, and monitor infection control etc. The proof is in the pudding.

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