Economics and public policy link explored in NHS paper

economics and public policy
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A paper released today claims public policy and services can be improved by taking into account economic evidence.

The briefing paper was published for the Mental Health Economics Collaborative, hosted by the Centre for Mental Health and the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network; and explains the principles of major economic theories and how their deployment in policy and service commissioning can lead to more effective, less costly decision making. It is the first in a two-part series, with the forthcoming second paper set to cover economic theory as it applies to funding and commissioning in the mental health sector.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “I am very pleased to be supporting this work in collaboration with two fantastic organisations. We know from years of work in this area that there is a need for strong, evidence-based policy recommendations around mental health services. The Mental Health Economics Collaborative provides our members with a mechanism to showcase innovative practice to colleagues within the sector, and beyond, to key health commissioners; a truly fantastic opportunity.  Economic theories relevant to public service provision provides the clear, engaging explanations of relevant economic theories needed to apply this evidence to effective care provision. I look forward to seeing its impact upon the sector.”

The paper examines key principles of public policy and commissioning, with reference to savings, competition, choice and rationing; and aims to demonstrate the reasons why common assumptions around economics are not always accurate in practical terms. The examples it lays out include the difference between correlation and causation; as well as the reasons service rationing lead to the increased use of high-cost services.

Nick O’Shea, the Centre for Mental Health’s chief economist and author of the paper, said: “Economic evidence can help policymakers and commissioners to use public money wisely and make decisions that help people and reduce inequalities. But if they are not understood or used poorly, they can mislead. Our collaborative [endeavour] with the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network aims to use economic evidence to give clear and good quality information to decision-makers. We want to ensure that funds are invested where they can make the biggest difference.”

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