Can NHS hospitals do more with less?

As the NHS attempts to secure unprecedented productivity gains, new research based on UK and international experience suggests how hospitals can improve efficiency.

Report co-author Jeremy Hurst outlines the key findings from a Nuffield Trust study on the factors most likely to impact on the efficiency of NHS trusts.

The NHS is facing a period of financial constraint, with providers charged with delivering four per cent efficiency savings per year up until 2015. While this can be seen as an opportunity to stimulate NHS providers to think differently about how they work to deliver services and to extract the necessary efficiencies, the scale of the challenge is unprecedented.

Against this backdrop, the Nuffield Trust commissioned a study into the factors known to impact on hospital efficiency. The resulting report, Can NHS hospitals do more with less?, by Jeremy Hurst and Sally Williams, draws on a review of UK and international research studies and a survey of senior managers and clinicians at NHS trusts.

The challenge facing NHS providers is to think differently about how they deliver services in order to extract the necessary efficiencies

The report contains recommendations on how hospitals can increase efficiency. It identifies the key determinants of technical efficiency in hospitals, which include: leadership, management and staff engagement; technology adoption; hospital operational processes; staff productivity; and the external policy environment.

The authors warn that the proposals set out in Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS could undermine the efficiency agenda by distracting commissioners from the need to shift care from hospitals to the community, and by diverting managers from the efficiency agenda.

Alongside the main report, the Nuffield Trust has published a research summary that draws on the findings to identify implications for policy and practice in light of current reforms to the NHS and the need to deliver challenging efficiency savings.

This research report and accompanying summary will be of interest to policy-makers, commissioners, managers, front-line staff and academics with an interest in health system efficiency. It forms part of the Nuffield Trust’s wider programme of work on efficiency.

Suggested citation

Hurst J and Williams S (2012) Can NHS hospitals do more with less? Research report. Nuffield Trust.