Cam Donaldson on managing the healthcare credit crunch

Cam Donaldson With NHS budget increases levelling off pre-credit crunch and now with the crunch itself, there has never been a more important time, in recent years at least, to be thinking about how to manage scarce healthcare resources for maximum gain to patients and the wider community.

During 2005-6 a group of around 130 NHS managers and researchers from various disciplines met for a series of five seminars sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council under the title of “Managing Scarcity in the NHS: theory-to-practice; practice-to-theory.”

The success of this series led to the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement funding what has now become known as the UK Forum on Health Care Priority Setting.

The announcement of the creation of the forum is to be made today at the 7th meeting of the International Society on Priorities in Health Care at the Sage Gateshead, where 300 delegates from around the world will gather to discuss issues of how best to manage scarcity of resources in health care from the perspectives of management and clinician practitioners as well as the research perspectives of economists and ethicists.

The Gateshead conference has three renowned international keynote speakers: Alan Garber, from Stanford University; Peter Littlejohns, from NICE; and Sheila Tlou, the former Minister of Health in Botswana. Tonight, Garber discusses the quest for improved health system efficiency in the light of growing economic uncertainty and increasingly aged populations. He will assess the roles of evidence evaluation and cost-effectiveness analysis in controlling the growth of spending and improving the productivity of health care. The focus will be on the US but will refer to universal issues.

The UK forum will follow on from the conference with a series of meetings over the next two years. The first of these meetings is on programme planning and priority setting to manage the NHS credit crunch. We will be following this by arranging further meetings on the topics of “building ethical processes and thinking into health care priority setting”, the “NHS Library and priority setting” and a joint meeting with other priority setting fora in other countries.

Cam Donaldson is Director, Institute of Health and Society and Health Foundation Chair in Health Economics, and NIHR Senior Investigator, Newcastle University. He is chair of the local organising committee for the conference and its also the organiser of the UK forum. To register your interest in the Forum, all you have to do to get on our e-mail list is to send an e-mail to Anita Tibbs at the Institute of Health & Society at Newcastle University – Anita can also give you details of our first meeting in Birmingham.