The instrument through which a commissioner purchases health services from a provider is, as in other walks of life, a contract, so considerable importance has been attached by the NHS Executive to the contracting mechanism. A contract should in theory influence the quality of the service provided, but they are in many cases an inappropriate vehicle for driving clinical care. Much clinical activity is related to the management of chronic diseases and the effects of aging. The implicit contract here is based not on process and outcome measures but on mutual trust between doctors and patients that the doctors will provide the best care they can within budgetary constraints
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