30 March 2012 2 Comments
Following the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have released their findings relating to competition in the NHS. As an independent research body there should be some weight to their opinions and it is generally positive in relation to competition within the NHS for the following reasons:
- Hospitals located in areas where patients had more choice had greater improvements in clinical quality and greater reductions in lengths of stay post policy than hospitals located in less competitive areas. Additionally, the hospitals in competitive markets increased their quality without increasing total operating costs or shedding staff.
- While around half the acute hospitals in England were involved in a merger between 1997 and 2003, recent studies have shown that these did not make improvements with one possible reason being that mergers reduce the potential for competition in a local market.
- Another study of management in the NHS shows that better management is associated with better outcomes in NHS hospitals and that management tends to be better where hospitals compete with each other.
So while there has been a lot of debate about the future of the NHS and in the extreme the end of the NHS, perhaps we should bear this research in mind as the ESRC conclude:
there is no evidence from recent studies of the UK that allowing patients more choice and exposing poorly performing hospitals to the threat of their patients choosing another provider is going to lead to the whole-scale destruction of the NHS and large equity issues. On the contrary, the evidence we have suggests that it has the power to improve outcomes for patients.