BACKGROUND: Research using local English data from 2003 to 2012 suggests that a 1% increase in healthcare expenditure causes a 0.78% reduction in mortality, and that it costs the NHS £10,000 to generate an additional quality-adjusted life year (QALY). In 2013, the existing 151 local health authorities (Primary Care Trusts) were abolished and replaced with 212 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs retained responsibility for secondary care and pharmaceuticals, but responsibility for primary care and specialised commissioning returned to central administrators.
OBJECTIVES: The aim was to extend and apply existing methods to more recent data using a new geography and expenditure base, while improving covariate selection and examining the responsiveness of mortality to expenditure across the mortality distribution.
METHODS: Instrumental variable regression is used to quantify the relationship between mortality and local expenditure. Backward selection and regularised regression are used to identify parsimonious specifications. These results are combined with information about survival and morbidity disease burden to calculate the marginal cost per QALY. Unconditional quantile regression (UQR) is used to examine the response of mortality to expenditure across the mortality distribution.
RESULTS: Backward selection and regularised regression both suggest that the marginal cost per QALY in 2014/15 was about £7000 for locally commissioned services. The UQR results suggest that additional expenditure generates larger health benefits in high-mortality areas and that, if anything, the average size of this heterogeneous response is larger than the response at the mean.
CONCLUSIONS: The new healthcare geography and expenditure base can be used to update estimates of the health opportunity costs associated with additional expenditure. The variation in the mortality response across the mortality distribution suggests that the use of the response at the mean will, if anything, underestimate the health opportunity costs associated with a national policy or nationally mandated guidance on the use of new technologies. The health opportunity costs of such policies are likely to be greater (lower) in areas of higher (lower) mortality, increasing health inequalities.