NHS productivity

NHS productivity gains require government commitment

Standardisation, collaboration and digital transformation have been earmarked as ways the NHS can improve productivity in a new expert report from the health sector.

New research from NHS Providers has collected five case studies from across the health service to present some of the ways that leaders can realise productivity gains in the face of the enormous challenges impacting local systems up and down the country.

The case studies come from Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust; Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust; North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust; Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust; and South Warwickshire University NHS Foundation Trust.

The approaches include:

  • standardising care delivery models across community nursing teams;
  • collaborating with neighbouring trusts to tackle shared challenges;
  • using digital tools to free up staff time;
  • introducing local measures to mitigate patient harm and ensure the right care is delivered in the right place; and
  • incentivising staff to help tackle waiting lists.

To properly put the NHS on a sure footing, however, trust ambitions must be matched by those in central government, according to NHS Providers.

CEO Sir Julian Hartley said: "Work being done on the 'front line' of the NHS offers real hope. It's encouraging to see how trusts are finding positive solutions in the face of extraordinary pressures.

"But if we're serious about improving the sustainability of the health service and want to help it to be as productive as possible then the efforts of trusts must be matched by long-term cross-government support including capital investment in NHS buildings and facilities.”

With the backlog maintenance bills now standing at £11.6bn, the NHS Confederation says the next government needs to increase capital funding in the NHS by £6.4bn a year if the essential repairs to infrastructure, replacement of out-of-date equipment, and necessary investment in digital technologies is to be carried out.

Policy director at the NHS Confederation, Dr Layla McCay, said: “Not only are buildings that are dilapidated or no longer fit for purpose demoralising for staff but they can also be a safety risk for patients as well as a barrier to productivity.”

The morale of staff is only further compounded by exhaustion and burnout, which is another key barrier to productivity, according to NHS Providers. In the last NHS Staff Survey, more than a third (34.2%) reported finding their work emotionally exhausting, while around three in 10 (30.4%) reported feeling burnt out.

The growing number of patients with complex conditions and the impact of industrial action are also included.

In a breakthrough for the strike action, the British Medical Association’s SAS doctors committee recently accepted the government pay offer — something that has seen trust leaders “breathing a sigh of relief” according to NHS Providers’ deputy CEO, Saffron Cordery.

Junior doctors are still set for a five-day walkout at the end of this month, however, meaning the NHS is not “out of the woods” yet.

Sir Julain Hartley concluded: "Our report is a snapshot of much wider work carried out by trusts and their partners to improve the quality of care while giving better value for money. The NHS is committed to productivity growth and trust leaders understand the importance of reducing waste, adding value and sustainably improving services.

"Trusts are working flat out to maintain high-quality care and tackle treatment delays, while doing more with existing resources. They are at the heart of many of the innovative solutions across the NHS, delivering for patients and for the populations they serve."

Image credit: iStock

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