Press release

Improving NHS productivity in elective care will reduce costs and cut the time patients spend in hospital

Productivity in elective care could increase if the NHS takes up recommendations in research by Monitor.

The NHS could increase productivity in elective care significantly and cut the length of time patients spend in hospital, if it takes up recommendations in research by Monitor.

The regulator has set out a series of practical steps that hospitals can take to improve clinical outcomes and reduce the amount of money spent on Ophthalmology and Orthopaedic services by between 13% and 20%.

The research, developed with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the British Orthopaedic Association, has looked into the efficiency and productivity of elective services at a range of NHS providers, as well as at 5 international centres.

A result of close collaboration with providers, the report and its detailed appendices describe where and how elective teams can concentrate their efforts to maximise quality and efficiency, from first consultation to follow-up after operations. The results include benefits for patients, such as shorter hospital stays.

Other areas that could boost NHS productivity in elective care include:

  • rating patients by risk and simplifying pathways for lower risk patients
  • extending clinical roles to enable lower grade staff to undertake routine tasks in theatre or outpatient departments usually performed by consultants
  • increasing efficiency in theatres by better measuring, communicating and managing the number of procedures per theatre session
  • implementing enhanced and rapid recovery practices to reduce length of stay
  • providing virtual follow-up for patients without complications.

Dr David Bennett, Chief Executive at Monitor, said:

The financial challenge facing the NHS is growing and hospitals up and down the country are being asked to do more to make sure they live within their means. We are seeking to play our part by offering practical support to the clinicians, managers and frontline.

This research identified some practical steps that could help hospitals improve clinical outcomes and reduce their elective care bills by as much as 20%, money that can be reinvested in improving care for patients.

Monitor intends to do further work with foundation trusts to support providers in the implementation of the recommendations in the report.