The King's Fund: Improving NHS productivity – more with the same not more of the same

Building on a previous analysis produced in association with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, this paper examines the gap between the likely available funding and the level of funding required to achieve the progress projected by Sir Derek Wanless in his 2002 report for the Treasury.

Building on a previous analysis produced in association with the Institute for Fiscal Studies, this paper examines the gap between the likely available funding and the level of funding required to achieve the progress projected by Sir Derek Wanless in his 2002 report for the Treasury.

It sets out:

  • the scale of the problem
  • strategies for managing the cost and demand pressures
  • strategies for improving productivity.

It suggests that improving productivity offers the best option for reducing the shortfall.

Findings relevant to workforce planning

The report finds opportunities to tackle inefficiencies in support services and back-office functions. NHS organisations should also be developing and incentivising the workforce. This includes increasing productivity through the use of staff contracts, tackling sickness absence, and being more innovative in making skill-mix changes.

The workforce could be developed and incentivised by improving staff productivity, looking at the time spent off sick from work, and new ways of working.

Reviewing the number and mix of staff employed, and working in partnership with trade unions to implement changes, are further options. Tighter vacancy controls and better use of temporary and agency staff – an area of high expenditure in many NHS organisations – may help improve productivity, as may reviews of working patterns and rota design.