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Use of economic evaluation in local health care decision-making in England: a qualitative investigation



Use of economic evaluation in local health care decision-making in England: a qualitative investigation



Health Policy 89(3): 261-270



To explore decision-making and the use of economic evaluation at the local health care decision-making level in England (UK). Data collection was over a 16-month period (January 2003 to April 2004). Data collection comprised 29 in-depth interviews with a range of decision makers, 13 observations of decision-making meetings, and analysis of documents produced at meetings. A constant comparative approach was used to identify broad themes and sub-themes arising from the data. Data were analysed using Microsoft Word. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance provides the main way in which economic evaluation is used at a local level in the UK, although following NICE guidance is often regarded as detrimental to pursuing local priorities. Other than through NICE, economic evaluation is not considered at the local level; we found no evidence for use at the meeting group (by individuals). Although decision makers appear to understand notions of scarcity, with some also referring to value for money, the process of decision-making departs from these principles in practice. Disinvestment decisions are not made nor are decisions weighted against pre-defined criteria. Options appraisal is conducted, but it does not embody the principles of economic evaluation, since options are not considered in terms of their costs and benefits and opportunity cost is not accounted for. There appear to be two reasons why economic evaluation is not used at the local level: (1) the nature of management decisions concerned with the employment of extra staff and new equipment, rather than the choice of medicines or specific interventions usually assessed in published economic evaluation; (2) lack of awareness of the economic evaluation approach to decision-making. These two factors point to a lack of freedom in decision-making at the local level and a lack of understanding of how priority setting can be achieved in practice. A more detailed and rigorous approach to prioritisation at the local level is required. Whilst, PCTs have been given greater responsibility for priority setting, they lack the necessary power and understanding of the ways in which long term solutions to problems in health care can be achieved. Economics can be a valuable asset to priority setting and has already filtered into the jargon used by decision makers. Whilst most concepts are understood, the leap to adopting these concepts into the practice of decision-making needs to be made.

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Accession: 056796984

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 18657336

DOI: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2008.06.004


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