The impact of market oriented reforms on choice and information: a case study of cataract surgery in outer London and Stockholm

Soc Sci Med. 1999 May;48(10):1415-32. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(98)00446-8.


In the early 1990s, a set of market-oriented reforms was introduced into health care systems of the UK and Sweden, two exemplary cases of reliance on planned budgeting and integrated provision of services. In the pursuit of increased efficiency, several County Councils in Sweden have followed the public competition model, while in the UK internal market reforms were introduced. It was expected that the separation of functions of planners and purchasers from those of providers, which were to be freely chosen by the former, would achieve higher allocative efficiency but also enhance users' satisfaction with care. This paper uses cataract surgery as a case study to trace the impact of competition among providers on choice and information. Qualitative research methods were employed to record the perception of changes in their type and amount as it was given to both purchasers and patients. A set of open ended and standardised questionnaires was designed to elicit the views of all actors involved and to measure the likely transformations. Four study sites from Outer London were selected representing the diversity of responses, and the only existing large provider of eye services to Stockholm County Council was used. The analysis of the data showed that the quasi-market reforms have resulted in a change of attitude of providers. Some improvements in the amount and type of information given to purchasers and patients could also be detected, although as far as direct users were concerned, the demand has not been fully satisfied. However, the impact on choice available to patients and purchasers alike seemed to be adverse, an effect that was particularly strong in the UK case.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cataract Extraction / economics
  • Cataract Extraction / standards*
  • Community Participation
  • Data Collection
  • Economic Competition
  • Female
  • Health Care Reform*
  • Health Care Sector / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • London
  • Male
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Patient Advocacy*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Rural Population
  • Sweden