Healthcare productivity: The Lancet, 31 January 2012

Letter for publication in response to an article in The Lancet on Monday 13 February 2012

Dear Sir,

Professor Nick Black’s view on the 'myth' of declining healthcare productivity (The Lancet, 13 February) appears to be based on a number of misunderstandings. He notes the Office for National Statistics expressed the need in 2005 for further work to take place but fails to point out that a substantial subsequent programme of work has addressed many of the limitations at that time. Data availability has significantly improved over the past eight years and, working closely with health care experts and data suppliers in the NHS, ONS has incorporated a high degree of disaggregation in its approach to measuring healthcare output and productivity. We also have a comprehensive measure of quality which includes many of the indicators that Professor Black suggests, but implies are absent. Professor Black has done a service in drawing attention to the importance of this agenda.  As he points point, the opportunities to use rapidly emerging new data to improve understanding further are substantial. ONS claims no monopoly on wisdom and is always keen to work with experts to improve measurement and understanding. But progress is likely to be greatest if we start with a common factual understanding.

Joe Grice
Director, Economic and Social Analysis
Office for National Statistics