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The Impact of Different Prioritisation Policies on Waiting Times: A Comparative Analysis of Norway and Scotland




We compare the distributional consequences of two different waiting times initiatives. The primary focus of Scotland’s recent waiting time reforms has been on reducing maximum waiting times through the imposition of high profile national targets. In Norway, the focus has been on appropriate prioritisation of referrals to hospital based on disease severity, the expected benefit of the treatment and cost-effectiveness. We use large, national administrative datasets from before and after each of these reforms and assign priority groups based on the maximum waiting times stipulated in Norwegian medical guidelines. To equalise case-mix over time, we use Exact Matching to weight the pre-reform patients to the patient composition in the post-reform period. We regress patient-level waiting times on patient characteristics and on a post-reform indicator interacted with the patient’s priority group. The analysis shows that the least-prioritised patients benefited most from both reforms. This was at the cost of longer waiting times for patients that should have been given higher priority in Norway, while Scotland’s high priority patients remained unaffected. This comparative analysis indicates that blanket waiting times initiatives may be more effective in reducing waiting times while preserving prioritisation between patients with different health needs.

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  • Januleviciute, Jurgita & Askildsen, Jan Erik & Holmås, Tor Helge & Kaarbøe, Oddvar & Sutton, Matt, 2010. "The Impact of Different Prioritisation Policies on Waiting Times: A Comparative Analysis of Norway and Scotland," Working Papers in Economics 07/10, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:bergec:2010_007

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Iacus, Stefano & King, Gary & Porro, Giuseppe, 2009. "cem: Software for Coarsened Exact Matching," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 30(i09).
    2. Askildsen, Jan Erik & Holmås, Tor Helge & Kaarboe, Oddvar, 2010. "Prioritization and patients' rights: Analysing the effect of a reform in the Norwegian hospital sector," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 199-208, January.
    3. Magnussen, Jon & Hagen, Terje P. & Kaarboe, Oddvar M., 2007. "Centralized or decentralized? A case study of Norwegian hospital reform," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(10), pages 2129-2137, May.
    4. Hugh Gravelle & Luigi Siciliani, 2008. "Is waiting-time prioritisation welfare improving?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(2), pages 167-184.
    5. Gravelle, Hugh & Siciliani, Luigi, 2008. "Ramsey waits: Allocating public health service resources when there is rationing by waiting," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1143-1154, September.
    6. Jeremy Hurst & Luigi Siciliani, 2003. "Tackling Excessive Waiting Times for Elective Surgery: A Comparison of Policies in Twelve OECD Countries," OECD Health Working Papers 6, OECD Publishing.
    7. Propper, Carol & Sutton, Matt & Whitnall, Carolyn & Windmeijer, Frank, 2010. "Incentives and targets in hospital care: Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 318-335, April.
    8. Hagen, Terje P. & Kaarboe, Oddvar M., 2006. "The Norwegian hospital reform of 2002: Central government takes over ownership of public hospitals," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 320-333, May.
    9. Sofia Dimakou & David Parkin & Nancy Devlin & John Appleby, 2009. "Identifying the impact of government targets on waiting times in the NHS," Health Care Management Science, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 1-10, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Silviya Nikolova; & Arthur Sinko; & Matt Sutton;, 2012. "Do maximum waiting times guarantees change clinical priorities? A Conditional Density Estimation approach," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 12/07, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.

    More about this item


    Waiting times; prioritisation; Norway; Scotland;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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