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More nurses boost productivity in consultant colleagues, claims report

The importance of a strong nursing workforce has been identified in a new report focused on England.
Nurse_&_consultant-iStock.jpg

The importance of a strong nursing workforce has been identified in a new report focused on England.

A study by the Health Foundation found a link between a higher proportion of nursing and support staff working in a hospital and improved consultant productivity.

However, the report found an 'uneven' pattern of staff growth. While the number of consultants in England increased by 22% between 2010-16, the number of nurses grew by just 1% and the number of GPs fell, the authors said.

The report said the number of doctors had increased at eight times the rate of nurses.

'The proportion of nurses had one of the largest impacts on consultant productivity: increasing the share

The importance of a strong nursing workforce has been identified in a new report focused on England.


Consultants working in hospitals were found to be more productive when there was a greater
number of nursing and support staff available. Picture: iStock 

A study by the Health Foundation found a link between a higher proportion of nursing and support staff working in a hospital and improved consultant productivity.

However, the report found an 'uneven' pattern of staff growth. While the number of consultants in England increased by 22% between 2010-16, the number of nurses grew by just 1% and the number of GPs fell, the authors said.

The report said the number of doctors had increased at eight times the rate of nurses.

'The proportion of nurses had one of the largest impacts on consultant productivity: increasing the share of nurses by 4% increased consultant productivity by 1%,' the report said.

Private care spending 

'Poor productivity is partly about the way the NHS uses its staff, but it also reflects national policy decisions. For example, the decision to cut nurse training places while consultant numbers were rapidly increasing, and three years of raids on capital budgets to bail out deficits.'

The Health Foundation found almost half of the £2 billion real terms increase in funding received in 2015-16 in England was used to commission care from NHS-organisations. This equates to £1 in £8 of commissioners' budgets spent on private care.

Health Foundation director of research and economics Anita Charlesworth said: 'Rising demand for emergency care meant that NHS providers haven't had the capacity to deliver planned care and patients had to be diverted outside the NHS.

'Clinical judgments'

'NHS hospitals were left squeezed by sharply rising drug and staff costs with little additional funding. The result was big deficits that had to be covered by raids on investment budgets.'

The Department of Health said the report simply showed the NHS was judging how best to deliver care, and spends less than 10% of its budget on independent providers.

A spokesperson said: 'This report simply shows the NHS is making clinical judgments about delivering high-quality care for patients. The truth is that for many years the independent sector has made a contribution to helping the NHS meet demand, now amounting to less than eight pence in every pound the NHS spends.'

Other key findings from the report:​

  • NHS hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance trusts received relatively little of the £2 billion real terms uplift to the NHS commissioning budget last year. NHS providers' operating income rose by just £0.8 billion in real terms, while their costs rose by £2.4 billion.
  • Planned spending on adult mental health for 2016-17 is £20.8 million short of the additional funding needed to meet the parity of esteem target for 2016-17.
  • Ineffective use of staff means the productivity challenge set in the Five Year Forward View is becoming increasingly difficult. Consultant productivity across 150 NHS acute hospitals fell by an average of 2.3% a year between 2009-10 and 2015-16.

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