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Extending Choice In English Health Care: The implications of the economic evidence


  • Burgess, Simon
  • Propper, Carol
  • Wilson, Deborah


Extending choice in health care is currently popular amongst English, and other, politicians. Those promoting choice make an appeal to a simple economic argument. Competitive pressure helps make private firms more efficient and consumer choice acts as a major driver for efficiency. Giving service users the ability to choose applies competitive pressure to health care providers and, analogously with private markets, they will raise their game to attract business. The paper subjects this assumption to the scrutiny provided by a review of the theoretical and empirical economic evidence on choice in health care. The review considers several interlocking aspects of the current English choice policy: competition between hospitals, the responsiveness of patients to greater choice, the provision of information and the use of fixed prices. The paper concludes that there is neither strong theoretical nor empirical support for competition, but that there are cases where competition has improved outcomes. The paper ends with a discussion of the implications of this literature for policies to promote competition in the English NHS.

Suggested Citation

  • Burgess, Simon & Propper, Carol & Wilson, Deborah, 2005. "Extending Choice In English Health Care: The implications of the economic evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 5328, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5328

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gaynor, Martin & Vogt, William B., 2000. "Antitrust and competition in health care markets," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 27, pages 1405-1487 Elsevier.
    2. Carol Propper & Deborah Wilson, 2003. "The Use and Usefulness of Performance Measures in the Public Sector," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 250-267, Summer.
    3. David Dranove & Daniel Kessler & Mark McClellan & Mark Satterthwaite, 2003. "Is More Information Better? The Effects of "Report Cards" on Health Care Providers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 555-588, June.
    4. Propper, Carol & Croxson, Bronwyn & Shearer, Arran, 2002. "Waiting times for hospital admissions: the impact of GP fundholding," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 227-252, March.
    5. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2002. "The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
    6. Sloan, Frank A., 2000. "Not-for-profit ownership and hospital behavior," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 21, pages 1141-1174 Elsevier.
    7. Ho, Vivian & Hamilton, Barton H., 2000. "Hospital mergers and acquisitions: does market consolidation harm patients?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 767-791, September.
    8. Propper, Carol & Wilson, Deborah & Soderlund, Neil, 1998. "The effects of regulation and competition in the NHS internal market: the case of general practice fundholder prices," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 645-673, December.
    9. Gaynor, Martin, 2007. "Competition and Quality in Health Care Markets," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 2(6), pages 441-508, February.
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    11. Tay, Abigail, 2003. " Assessing Competition in Hospital Care Markets: The Importance of Accounting for Quality Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(4), pages 786-814, Winter.
    12. Ellis, Randall P., 1998. "Creaming, skimping and dumping: provider competition on the intensive and extensive margins1," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 537-555, October.
    13. Dranove, David & Satterthwaite, Mark A., 2000. "The industrial organization of health care markets," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 20, pages 1093-1139 Elsevier.
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    15. Daniel P. Kessler & Mark B. McClellan, 2000. "Is Hospital Competition Socially Wasteful?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 577-615.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ctc:serie1:def9 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Zack Cooper & Stephen Gibbons & Simon Jones & Alistair McGuire, 2011. "Does Hospital Competition Save Lives? Evidence From The English NHS Patient Choice Reforms," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(554), pages 228-260, August.
    3. Cooper, Zack & Gibbons, Stephen & Jones, Simon & McGuire, Alistair, 2010. "Does hospital competition improve efficiency? An analysis of the recent market-based reforms to the English NHS," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28578, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Cookson, Richard & Laudicella, Mauro & Donni, Paolo Li, 2013. "Does hospital competition harm equity? Evidence from the English National Health Service," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 410-422.
    5. Cookson R & Laudicella M, 2009. "Do the poor still cost more? The relationship between small area income deprivation and length of stay for elective hip replacement in the English NHS from 2001/2 to 2006/7," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 09/07, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    6. Richard Cookson & Mauro Laudicella & Paolo Li Donni, 2011. "Measuring change in health care equity using small area administrative data – evidence from the English NHS 2001-8," Working Papers 067cherp, Centre for Health Economics, University of York.
    7. Cookson, Richard & Laudicella, Mauro & Donni, Paolo Li, 2012. "Measuring change in health care equity using small-area administrative data – Evidence from the English NHS 2001–2008," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1514-1522.
    8. Fabbri, D & Robone, S, 2008. "The geography of hospital admission in a National Health Service with patient choice: evidence from Italy," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 08/29, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    9. Andritsos, Dimitrios A. & Tang, Christopher S., 2014. "Introducing competition in healthcare services: The role of private care and increased patient mobility," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 234(3), pages 898-909.
    10. Vomhof, Markus, 2016. "Hospital competition with heterogeneous patient groups: Incentives and regulation," Ruhr Economic Papers 624, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    11. repec:taf:pubmmg:v:36:y:2016:i:6:p:409-416 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Jacqueline O'Reilly & Miriam M. Wiley, 2008. "How Local is Hospital Treatment? An Exploratory Analysis of Public/Private Variation in Location of Treatment in Irish Acute Public Hospitals," Papers WP237, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    13. Brenna, Elenka, 2011. "Quasi-market and cost-containment in Beveridge systems: The Lombardy model of Italy," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 103(2), pages 209-218.
    14. Elenka Brenna & Federico Spandonaro, 2014. "Does federalism induce patients’ mobility across regions? Evidence from the Italian experience," DISCE - Working Papers del Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza def009, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
    15. Michiel Bijlsma & Pierre Koning & Victoria Shestalova, 2013. "The Effect of Competition on Process and Outcome Quality of Hospital Care in the Netherlands," De Economist, Springer, vol. 161(2), pages 121-155, June.
    16. Joan Costa-Font & Valentina Zigante, 2016. "The choice agenda in European health systems: the role of middle-class demands," Public Money & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(6), pages 409-416, September.

    More about this item


    choice; competition; English NHS reforms; health care;

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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