OPEN Gaceta sanitaria / S.E.S.P.A.S | 28 May 2014
The economic and fiscal crisis of 2008 has erupted into the debate on the sustainability of health systems; some countries, such as Spain, have implemented strong policies of fiscal consolidation and austerity. The institutional framework and governance model of the national health system (NHS) after its devolution to regions in 2002 had significant weaknesses, which were not apparent in the rapid growth stage but which have been clearly visible since 2010. In this article, we describe the changes in government regulation from the national and NHS perspective: both general changes (clearly prompted by the economic authorities), and those more specifically addressed to healthcare. The Royal Decree-Law 16/2012 represents the centerpiece of austerity policies in healthcare but also implies a rupture with existing political consensus and a return to social security models. Our characterization of austerity in healthcare explores impacts on savings, services, and on the healthcare model itself, although the available information only allows some indications. The conclusions highlight the need to change the path of linear, rapid and radical budget cuts, providing a time-frame for implementing key reforms in terms of internal sustainability; to do so, it is appropriate to restore political and institutional consensus, to emphasize «clinical management» and divestment of inappropriate services (approach to the medical profession and its role as micro-manager), and to create frameworks of good governance and organizational innovations that support these structural reforms.
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