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Home » Library » Incentives and targets in hospital care: Evidence from a natural experiment

Abstract: Performance targets are commonly used in the public sector, despite their well known problems when organisations have multiple objectives and performance is difficult to measure. It is possible that such targets may work where there is considerable consensus that performance needs to be improved. We investigate this possibility by examining the response of the English National Health Service to high profile waiting time targets. We exploit a natural policy experiment between two countries of the UK (England and Scotland) to establish the global effectiveness of the targets. We then use a within-England hospital analysis to confirm that responses vary by treatment intensity and to control for differences in resources which may accompany targets. We find that targets met their goals of reducing waiting times without diverting activity from other less well monitored aspects of health care and without decreasing patient health on exit from hospital. 

Propper C., Sutton, M., Whitnall, C.,and Windmeijer, F., (2010) ‘Incentives and targets in hospital care: Evidence from a natural experiment’ Journal of Public Economics, Vol94, Issues 3-4 : Pages 318-335