European hospital reforms in times of crisis: Aligning cost containment needs with plans for structural redesign?

T. Clemens*, K. Michelsen, M. Commers, P. Garel, B. Dowdeswell, H. Brand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Hospitals have become a focal point for health care reform strategies in many European countries during the current financial crisis. It has been called for both, short-term reforms to reduce costs and long-term changes to improve the performance in the long run. On the basis of a literature and document analysis this study analyses how EU member states align short-term and long-term pressures for hospital reforms in times of the financial crisis and assesses the EU's influence on the national reform agenda. The results reveal that there has been an emphasis on cost containment measures rather than embarking on structural redesign of the hospital sector and its position within the broader health care system. The EU influences hospital reform efforts through its enhanced economic framework governance which determines key aspects of the financial context for hospitals in some countries. In addition, the EU health policy agenda which increasingly addresses health system questions stimulates the process of structural hospital reforms by knowledge generation, policy advice and financial incentives. We conclude that successful reforms in such a period would arguably need to address both the organisational and financing sides to hospital care. Moreover, critical to structural reform is a widely held acknowledgement of shortfalls in the current system and belief that new models of hospital care can deliver solutions to overcome these deficits. Advancing the structural redesign of the hospital sector while pressured to contain cost in the short-term is not an easy task and only slowly emerging in Europe. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-14
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014




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