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Medical labour supply and the production of healthcare

Tom Lee, Carol Propper and George Stoye
Journal article | Fiscal Studies - Special Issue: 50th Anniversary of IFS

Medical labour markets are important because of their size and the importance of medical labour in the production of healthcare and in subsequent patient outcomes. We present a summary of important trends in the UK medical labour market, and we review the latest research on factors that determine medical labour supply and the impact of labour on patient outcomes. The topics examined include: the responsiveness of labour supply to changes in wages, regulation and other incentives; factors that determine the wide variation in physician practice and style; and the effect of teams and management quality on patient outcomes. This literature reveals that while labour supply is relatively unresponsive to changes in wages, medical personnel do react strongly to other incentives, even in the short run. This is likely to have consequences for the quality of care provided to patients. We set out a series of unanswered questions in the UK setting, including: the importance of non‐financial incentives in recruiting and retaining medical staff; how individuals can be incentivised to work in particular specialties and regions; and how medical teams can be best organised to improve care.

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Briefing note
The government is considering easing the current restraint on the pay of public sector workers. It had previously announced in 2015 that public sector pay scales would only increase by an average of 1% per year up to and including 2019–20. This briefing note describes the trade-offs faced by the ...
Book chapter
This chapter is part of of the IFS Green Budget 2017.
IFS Working Paper W15/04
The paper investigates the short run responsiveness of National Health Service (NHS) nurses’ labour supply to changes in wages of NHS nurses relative to wages in outside options available to nurses, utilising the panel data aspect of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.