Measuring NHS Performance 1990–2009 Using Amenable Mortality
Interpret with Care
Published in: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, v. 104, no. 9, Sep. 2011, p. 370-379
OBJECTIVES: The new performance framework for the NHS in England will assess how well health services are preventing people from dying prematurely, based on the concept of mortality amenable to healthcare. We ask how the different parts of the UK would be assessed had this measure been in use over the past two decades, a period that began with somewhat lower levels of health expenditure in England and Wales than in Scotland and Northern Ireland but which, after 1999, saw the gap closing. DESIGN: We assessed the change in age-standardized death rates in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in two time periods: 1990–1999 and 1999–2009. Mortality data by five-year age group, sex and cause of death for the years 1990 to 2009 were analysed using age-standardized death rates from causes considered amenable to healthcare. The absolute change was assessed by fitting linear regression and the relative change was estimated as the average annual percent decline for the two periods. SETTING: United Kingdom. PARTICIPANTS: Not applicable. MAIN OUTCOMES MEASURES: Mortality from causes amenable to healthcare. RESULTS: Between 1990 and 1999 deaths amenable to medical care had been falling more slowly in England and Wales than in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However the rate of decline in England and Wales increased after 1999 when funding of the NHS there increased. Examination of individual causes of death reveals a complex picture, with some improvements, such as in breast cancer deaths, occurring simultaneously across the UK, reflecting changes in diagnosis and treatment that took place in each nation at the same time, while others varied. CONCLUSIONS: Amenable mortality is a useful indicator of health system performance but there are many methodological issues that must be taken into account when interpreting it once it is adopted for routine use in England.