Feature Data Briefing

English NHS hospital activity: doing less (with less or the same)?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e733 (Published 01 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e733
  1. John Appleby, chief economist
  1. 1King’s Fund, London W1G 0AN, UK
  1. j.appleby{at}kingsfund.org.uk

John Appleby examines the numbers behind recent claims about activity in English hospitals

Rather than “doing more with less” or, if we are slightly more optimistic about the money, “doing more with the same,” English hospitals seem to be doing less (possibly with less or the same). Yet the secretary of state for health, Andrew Lansley, told BBC Radio 4’s Today last week (24 January) that the figures were positive. What is going on?

Comparing the first eight months of this financial year (April to November 2011) with the same eight months in 2010, it is true, as Andrew Lansley has said, that non-elective (emergency) admissions fell by 1.9% and that general practitioner (GP) referrals also fell—by 3.1% (fig 1). This, he implied, was a good thing. Emergency admissions had been rising …

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