Non-frontline staff in the NHS

Delivering high quality public services depends in part on good management. Maximising productivity without losing sight of key objectives requires capable managers and they do have a role to play in the NHS. But how many is enough? Figures released yesterday from the NHS Information Centre have shown that there has been a huge growth in the number of NHS managers, made to look all the more steep when compared with the growth of frontline staff like nurses:

Graph 4Source: NHS Information Centre

The Department of Health have downplayed the significance of these figures, as Government departments reflexively do.  As a percentage of total staff, management comprise just over 3 percent, and this is lower than some private companies. True, but the NHS is a unique organisation that should be heavily geared towards patient care driven by clinicians. Anyway, it is the rate of increase that is most noticeable. In between 2008 and 2009, the number of management staff increased by 12 percent and the number of nurses by 2 percent.

A number of newspapers have reported on the increase in management, but looking more closely at the data we can add other non-medical staff to the mix:

Graph 1 Source: NHS Information Centre

This shows that spending priorities are not always geared towards the frontline that politicians are so keen to champion with every second of airtime they get. Figures like these mean that there is room for savings in the NHS budget and talk of ring-fencing it is misguided.

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