Public involvement in health care priority setting: an economic perspective

Tracy Roberts, Stirling Bryan, Chris Heginbotham, Alison McCallum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Public involvement in health care decision making and priority setting in the UK is being promoted by recent policy initiatives. In 1993, the British Medical Association called for public consultation where rationing of services was to be undertaken. The approach to priority setting advocated by many health economists is the maximization of quality adjusted life years (QALYs). Typically, for a particular health care programme, the QALY calculation takes account of four features: (1) the number of patients receiving the programme, (2) the survival gain, (3) the gain in quality of life and, (4) the probability of treatment success. Only one feature, that relating to quality of life, is based upon public preferences. If the QALY is to be used as a tool for health care resource allocation at a societal level then it should incorporate broader societal preferences. METHODS: This study used an interview-based survey of 91 members of the general public to explore whether the traditional QALY maximization model is a good predictor of public responses to health care priority setting choices. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Many respondents did not choose consistently in line with a QALY maximization objective and were most influenced by quality of life concerns. There was little support for health care programmes that provided a prognostic improvement but left patients in relatively poor states of health. The level of respondent engagement in the survey exercise was not sensitive to the provision of supporting clinical information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-244
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 1999

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Health economics
  • Priority setting
  • public involvement
  • quality adjusted life years (QALYs)


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