CPS calls for new focus on NHS efficiency

Long-Term Plan provides welcome financial certainty, but improved productivity is required to realise its ambitions
The Centre for Policy Studies today welcomed the publication of NHS England’s Long-Term Plan for the NHS, setting out a 10-year strategy to move the health service forward.

The plan echoed many of the arguments set out by the CPS in making the case for a Royal Commission on the NHS in recent years, and for wider NHS reform. For example, the commitment to a digital-first NHS supported the conclusions of ‘Powerful Patients, Paperless Systems’ by Alan Mak MP.

But it will only represent a true watershed for the NHS if it helps to move the debate forward from how much is being spent to how will it is being spent – from inputs to outputs.

As CPS analysis has shown, productivity growth within the NHS is far more important than funding in terms of delivering a better service for patients. If annual NHS productivity growth over the next 10 years were to run at the same level achieved in the best five years since 1995 (when current records began), it would mean a 73% increase in health service output. The improvement in efficiency delivered would be the equivalent of:
  • 219,000 more nurses on our wards
  • 5.5 million more cancer treatments
  • 74,000 hip replacement procedures

If annual productivity growth were to run at the same level achieved in the five worst years since 1995, this would mean an increase in output of just 20%. Compared with the high productivity scenario, this would mean the equivalent of:

  • 159,000 fewer nurses on our wards
  • 4 million fewer cancer treatments
  • 58,000 hip replacements

With the NHS’s finances guaranteed for the next five years, the focus must therefore switch to ensuring that the money is spent wisely, and that today’s targets (for example for cutting waste and lowering preventable deaths) are met. This is all the more important given that CPS research also shows that increased NHS funding tends to be linked to lower productivity.

NHS leaders must also be willing to address thorny and politically controversial issues such as the cost of NHS medical liabilities and the health service’s antiquated pay structure, as addressed in recent CPS papers.

Robert Colvile, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said:

“This Long-Term Plan represents an ambitious vision for the future of the NHS, its priorities are broadly correct, and we are glad the Government recognise the importance of spending the extra money wisely.

“But the key here is not the targets, but the delivery. Funding increases must be accompanied by real increases in productivity, or we will waste money and let down patients.

“In particular, delivering on today’s pledges to bring the NHS into the digital age and cut waste across the service will be vital if we are to see the improvements in care that we need in the future.”


For further information, or to book Centre for Policy Studies spokesmen, please contact the Centre for Policy Studies Press Office on 07876161196 or email [email protected].


Date Added: Monday 7th January 2019