IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Income Sensitivity of GP Utilization: A Conceptual and Empirical Exploration Using the Northern Ireland Household Panel


  • McGregor, P.

    (University of Ulster)

  • McKee, P.

    (University of Ulster)

  • O'Neill, C.

    (University of Ulster)


There is a temptation for the debate on reducing GP utilization to employ terms such as ‘appropriate’ or ‘unnecessary’, terms that are in fact value-laden. The meaning of such terms is rarely defined explicitly, perhaps reflecting the lack of consensus on the nature of services that should be provided. For example, the social interaction afforded by a consultation may be construed as a legitimate and effective form of treatment in itself. By developing the standard utility maximizing framework this paper has sought to eschew such subjectivity. It has highlighted the role of the user as a rational and active decision maker rather than a feckless or passive recipient of a service conditionally supplied by a paternalistic authority. We have demonstrated the insights generated by using standard economic concepts such as income and opportunity cost. The conclusion that 16% of GP consultations are income sensitive is thus based upon aggregate consumer behaviour. This is distinct from the ex post assessments of practitioners employing a particular professional definition of “appropriate” that may legitimately vary perhaps reflecting pressures on the individual GP. We discuss a number of policy instruments that may be used to reduce utilisation tackle unnecessary visits. We maintain that a policy based on consumer behaviour is more likely to be successful than one based on professional prescription.

Suggested Citation

  • McGregor, P. & McKee, P. & O'Neill, C., 2003. "The Income Sensitivity of GP Utilization: A Conceptual and Empirical Exploration Using the Northern Ireland Household Panel," Papers HRBWP07, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:hrb07
    Note: Published by ESRI, ISSC & University of Ulster

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nolan, Brian, 1993. "Economic incentives, health status and health services utilisation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 151-169, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item




    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:hrb07. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sarah Burns). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.