Financial and clinical risk in health care reform: a view from below
Objectives This paper examines how the interaction between financial and clinical risk at two critical phases of health care reform in England has been experienced by frontline staff caring for vulnerable patients with long term conditions. Methods The paper draws on contracting theory and two interdisciplinary and in-depth qualitative research studies undertaken in 1995 and 2007. Methods common to both studies included documentary analysis and interviews with managers and front line professionals. The 1995 study employed action-based research and included observation of community care; the 2007 study used realistic evaluation and included engagement with service user groups. Results In both reform processes, financial risk was increasingly devolved to frontline practitioners and smaller organisational units such as GP commissioning groups, with payment by unit of activity, aimed at changing professionals’ behaviour. This financing increased perceived clinical risk and fragmented the delivery of health and social care services requiring staff efforts to improve collaboration and integration, and created some perverse incentives and staff demoralisation. Conclusions Health services reform should only shift financial risk to frontline professionals to the extent that it can be efficiently borne. Where team work is required, contracts should reward collaborative multi-professional activity.
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Journal of Health Services Research and Policy
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