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Counting the costs: the risks of regulating and accounting for health care provision

By Liisa Kurunmaki and Peter Miller


Payment by Results (PbR) is one of the most fundamental changes in NHS policy since the introduction of the ‘internal market’ in 1991. It is also one of the most visible and influential attempts across the same period to modernize the NHS through accounting and, more specifically, costing. As a funding system, PbR promises to pay providers fairly and transparently by using a ‘standard national tariff.’ However, like all accounting based reforms, PbR encounters the range of professions and expertises active in the domain. Like all costing systems that give visibility where previously it was lacking, PbR creates new calculable spaces and new risks. The aim of the paper is threefold. First, we seek to chart the nature of the arena within which PbR operates. We identify the multiple actors that are influential in the regulatory field of health service provision, and focus on three types of actor in particular, namely the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), Monitor and professional medical associations. We argue that these three actors need to be viewed as representative of different types of expertise (schematically speaking, health economics, accounting and medicine) and that, to understand fully the nature of the regulatory game in the healthcare arena, PbR needs to be analysed not as a stand alone intervention but as enmeshed within the inter-professional complex that emerges out of the interaction of these three types of expertise. Second, we argue that we need to focus on the ways in which PbR, along with other regulatory interventions in the healthcare field, such as those of NICE and Monitor, seek to create new and sometimes competing calculable spaces based on different entity assumptions. Third, we argue that to understand empirically the dynamics of healthcare reform in the UK we need to examine the extent to which PbR creates new calculating selves, or a hybridizing of the calculating and medical self. The regulatory complex within which PbR operates may, we argue, produce contradictory incentives and thereby contribute to systemic provision risks

Topics: R Medicine (General)
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1080/13698570701782395
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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