New study links hospital privatisation to worse patient care

A close up of a nurse writing notes on a clipboard. In the background is a patient in a hospital bed.

A new review has concluded that hospitals that are privatised typically deliver worse quality care after converting from public ownership. The study, led by Dr Benjamin Goodair and Professor Aaron Reeves, has been published in The Lancet Public Health.

Key findings include:

  • Increases in privatisation generally corresponded with worse quality of care, with no studies included in the review finding unequivocally positive effects on health outcomes.
  • Hospitals converting from public to private ownership status tended to make higher profits. This was mainly achieved by reducing staff levels and reducing the proportion of patients with limited health insurance coverage.
  • Privatisation generally corresponded with fewer cleaning staff employed per patient, and higher rates of patient infections.
  • In some studies, higher levels of hospital privatisation corresponded with higher rates of avoidable deaths.
  • However, in some cases (e.g. Croatia), privatisation led to some benefits for patient access, through more precise appointments and new means of care delivery, such as out-of-hours telephone calls.

Find out more on the University website