The impacts of choice in public services are controversial. This paper exploits a reform in the English National Health Service to assess the impact of relaxing constraints on patient choice. The results suggest that greater choice can enhance quality.
Marty Gaynor, Carol Propper, Stephan Seiler13 January 2013
Greater choice and competition in healthcare is a popular reform model. This column discusses recent research suggesting that once restrictions on choice in the UK’s NHS were lifted, patients receiving cardiac surgery became more responsive to the quality of their care. This saved lives and gave hospitals a greater incentive to improve quality.
A central plank of the NHS reforms implemented by the UK Labour government of the 2000s was the introduction of patient choice. For the first time in the history of the NHS it was mandated that patients should have a say in the choice of hospital when being referred for an elective treatment. Rather than relying entirely on their general practitioner (GP), patients were now offered a set of five hospitals to choose from.