Private Provision of Publicly Funded Health Care: The Economics of Ownership

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Googling “Private ownership in the NHS” provides a host of links that reveal antipathy in the UK towards privately owned health care providers. The increase in non-NHS bodies providing health care is described in terms such as “creeping privatisation” or a “sell- off”. There are strongly stated concerns regarding the increasing use of non-publicly owned, especially for-profit, firms to provide services: concerns that the NHS is being undermined, that future services will be at risk or even that health care that is free at the point of delivery – a key tenet of the NHS – is about to be abandoned. There are, however, also staunch defenders of the role of the private sector in health care who argue that private providers increase patient choice, reduce waiting times and drive innovation and efficiency improvements. Depending on the viewpoint, private ownership is either a disaster or a salvation for the NHS.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a view of the ownership debate through the lens of economics1. The language of economics is used by both those for and those against private provision in a publicly-funded health care system such as the NHS, and yet its use is both selective and partisan. We believe, therefore, that the following pages will be informative for anyone with an interest in health care policy.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLondon: OHE
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2018


  • private providers

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