Can Governments Do it Better? Merger Mania and Hospital Outcomes in the English NHS
37 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 2011
The literature on mergers between private hospitals suggests that such mergers often produce little benefit. Despite this, the UK government has pursued an active policy of hospital merger. These mergers are initiated by a regulator, acting on behalf of the public, and justified on the grounds that merger will improve outcomes. We examine whether this promise is met. We exploit the fact that between 1997 and 2006 in England around half the short term general hospitals were involved in a merger, but that politics means that selection for a merger may be random with respect to future performance. We examine the impact of mergers on a large set of outcomes including financial performance, productivity, waiting times and clinical quality and find little evidence that mergers achieved gains other than a reduction in activity. In addition, mergers reduce the scope for competition between hospitals.
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