Introducing competition to the health sector should be treated with caution

Duckett, S. The Conversation. Published online: 5 December 2016

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The terms “privatisation”, “competition” and “pro-competitive” reforms have many meanings. At one end of a continuum, competition could simply mean providing more information to general practitioners to help them with referrals. Further along the continuum, one could see enhanced ability of patients to choose among public providers. A more radical approach would be to allow choice between public and private providers.

Competition can enhance quality in normal markets, but health markets don’t always follow the same rules. A recent report, which looked at the impact of competition and consumer-choice reforms in England on quality of care for elective procedures, found quality of care for hip and knee replacement appeared to fall. But quality for coronary bypass patients was not affected (either positively or negatively).

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