• 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:

Further reading


Chart of the month


Data visualisation of today’s most intriguing health and health care trends

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