• 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.

Download chart as image (.png) | Download chart as PowerPoint slide (.pptx)

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.



In text:

Data sources and figure also uses:

Further reading

Research report

A year of plenty?

March 2017
Research report

The NHS is facing unprecedented financial pressures 2.5 years after the publication of the Five year...

You might also like...


Enabling service transformation in practice: reflections on the Wade-Gery review


Will the Wade-Gery review enable the NHS to make a leap forwards on tech and data? Tim Horton...

Newsletter feature

Five things we learned from our work on NHS productivity

Newsletter feature

Maximising productivity is critical if the NHS is to survive the pressures it faces. But what does...

Newsletter blog

What is sustainable?

Newsletter blog

A summary of our work to ensure productivity and sustainable improvement is at the heart of NHS...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

Last winter we released a short film exploring the pandemic's impact on the mental wellbeing of NHS workers and hig… https://t.co/LRpf0A3kAB

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more