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Working for patients: the right approach?

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This paper is a slightly revised version of a Memorandum requested by the House of Commons Social Services Select Committee to assist the Committee in its analysis of the White Paper Working for Patients (Cm 555). It was submitted to the Committee on 28 February 1989. The paper follows up the authors’earlier study of the reform of the NHS (Barr, Glennerster and Le Grand, 1988), prepared at the request of the Select Committee prior to the publication of the White Paper. The success or failure of the White Paper depends crucially on the precise details of the way in which its proposals are implemented. The Working Papers, although providing some more information as to how the White Paper's proposals will be implemented, do not in the main address the issues that concern us here. Given the inescapable tension between cost and quality, quality control will be absolutely critical if the incentives to economize on the use of resources are not on occasion to lead to unacceptable reductions in quality — reductions which might well apply differentially by socioeconomic group.

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