NHS Privatization Tied to Increase in Treatable Mortality

Annual increase of 1 percent of outsourcing to the private for-profit sector linked to annual increase of 0.38 percent in treatable mortality

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THURSDAY, June 30, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Outsourcing spending for health care services to the private for-profit sector in the United Kingdom is associated with increased mortality from causes that should be treatable by medical intervention, according to a study published in the July issue of The Lancet Public Health.

Benjamin Goodair and Aaron Reeves, Ph.D., from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, examined the impact of outsourcing spending to private providers on treatable mortality rates and the quality of health care services in England. A novel database composed of parsable procurement contracts between April 1, 2013, and Feb. 29, 2020, across 173 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) was used. Data were compiled from 12,709 heterogenous expenditure files with supplier names matched to registers identifying them as National Health Service (NHS) organizations, for-profit companies, or charities. These data were supplemented with rates of local mortality from causes that should be treatable by medical intervention.

The researchers found that there was an annual increase of 0.38 percent in treatable mortality or 0.29 deaths per 100,000 population in the following year in association with an annual increase of 1 percentage point of outsourcing to the private for-profit sector. This finding was robust to matching on background characteristics, adjustment for confounding variables, and measurement error. An additional 557 treatable deaths across 173 CCGs were seen in association with changes to for-profit outsourcing since 2014.

"While more research is needed to determine the precise causes of the declining quality of health care in England, our findings suggest that further increases in NHS privatization would be a mistake," Reeves said in a statement.

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