NHS productivity has crept up slightly after more than a decade of overall decline, figures suggest.

A report from the Office for National Statistics shows productivity rose by 0.7% in 2009 compared to a 2.7 per cent fall from 1995 to 2009 (an average annual fall of 0.2 per cent).

The study reflected the big increase in drug prescribing by GPs since 1995 and a more than 50 per cent increase in the amount of NHS work in hospitals and the community.

NHS output is likely to be affected by several factors, including increased alcohol consumption leading to more hospital admissions and treatment.

Obesity is also having an impact, with associated illnesses requiring treatment including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes.

However, the drop in the number of people smoking may also be leading to less need for treatment, according to previously published research contained within the study.

Productivity is measured according to inputs, such as labour and goods, and outputs, such as hospital procedures.

Senior analyst Richard Wild said: “We found that two-thirds of the rise in inputs took the form of the NHS using more goods and services - things like bedding and bandages, drugs, contracted-out services, and utilities - and one-third of the rise supported the NHS employing more staff, including substantially more doctors and nurses.

“Output went up for a number of reasons. The largest part of the increase was because of the rise in the number of procedures performed, but two other factors also played a role: the volume of drugs prescribed by GPs tripled, and the quality of healthcare improved.”