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Tackling Excessive Waiting Times for Elective Surgery: A Comparison of Policies in Twelve OECD Countries


  • Jeremy Hurst
  • Luigi Siciliani


Waiting times for elective (non-urgent) surgery are a main health policy concern in approximately half of OECD countries. Mean waiting times for elective surgical procedures are above three months in several countries and maximum waiting times can stretch into years. They generate dissatisfaction for the patients and among the general public. Is there a solution? This report discusses the waiting-time phenomenon and provides a comparative analysis of policies to tackle waiting times across 12 OECD countries.At worst, waiting times can lead to deterioration in health, loss of utility and extra costs. However, one surprising result is that there is little evidence of health deterioration from a review of studies of patients waiting for a few months for different elective procedures across a range of countries. Moreover, such patients are quite tolerant of short and moderate waits, although the general public often expresses more concern about waiting.It is argued that there will be both ... Les délais d’attente précédant des interventions chirurgicales non urgentes constituent un problème de santé publique majeur dans pratiquement la moitié des pays de l’OCDE. Les délais d’attente médians sont supérieurs à trois mois dans plusieurs pays et les délais maximums peuvent atteindre plusieurs années. Ces attentes sont source d’insatisfaction pour les malades et dans l’opinion. Comment peut-on résoudre ce problème ? Le présent rapport examine le phénomène des délais d’attente et propose une analyse comparative des mesures prises pour tenter d’en venir à bout dans douze pays de l’OCDE.Les délais d’attente peuvent aller jusqu’à entraîner une détérioration de la santé et une perte de capacités des malades ainsi que des surcoûts. Paradoxalement, l’analyse d’études effectuées dans un certain nombre de pays au sujet de malades devant attendre quelques mois avant de subir différentes interventions non urgentes ne fait pas véritablement apparaître de détérioration de la santé des ...

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaad:6-en

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    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • 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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